PBS’ “American Experience” examines the Clinton presidency


PBS has announced that the first hour of its new, two-part American Experience documentary “Clinton” — which premieres on the network over two nights, Feb. 20 at 9pm ET and Feb. 21 at 8pm ET — will premiere exclusively on the free PBS apps for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch beginning today. This hour will also be available for free download on iTunes for one week before the broadcast. The full four-hour biography will be streamed on video.pbs.org, timed to the national broadcast.

“With nearly one-third of our 148 million video streams in January coming from mobile apps, we felt that mobile was a perfect platform to preview the first hour of this much anticipated biography,” said Jason Seiken, senior vice president, interactive, product development & innovation, PBS. “We’ve seen that these kinds of previews can help generate viewer buzz and drive tune-in.”

And this documentary is definitely something to tune in to. From Emmy and Peabody-winning director Barak Goodman, who helmed the American Experience episode “My Lai,” “Clinton” is the latest in American Experience‘s critically acclaimed collection of presidential biographies. And it may be covering one of its most polarizing figures to date, at least in modern presidential history.

He came into office with lofty ambitions and left, many Americans believe, in disgrace. But a great deal was accomplished in the eight-year presidency of William Jefferson Clinton. “Clinton” explores the early life of our 42nd president, his marriage to a woman as brilliant and ambitious as he is, the drive that led him to seek a career in politics, and his triumphs and failures in office.

Childhood and college friends of both Bill and Hillary, members of the Clinton inner circle such as Dee Dee Myers and James Carville, and political opponents give their opinion of a president filled with gumption, ambition and charm, but who was far too often his own worst enemy. It looks at the hardship and violence of his early life, his political career in Arkansas and events that earned him the title of “Comeback Kid.” Security advisers such as Gen. Wesley K. Clark discuss the agonizing decisions President Clinton made concerning Somalia, Bosnia and the first bombing of the World Trade Center.

The fact that this is all conveyed primarily in the first half of the documentary while the second half is largely occupied with the Monica Lewinsky scandal is testament to Clinton’s penchant for self-destruction. But what comes through just as strongly in this documentary is the man’s incredible compassion for the poor, especially for those striving for a better life. What is missing in this film is Clinton’s candid perspective on his presidency. Hopefully, one day, he will provide it.

American Experience: “Clinton” airs Feb. 20 at 9pm ET and Feb. 21 at 8pm ET on PBS. Check local listings.

Watch Clinton Extended Preview on PBS. See more from American Experience.


Photo courtesy of William J. Clinton Presidential Library

1 Comment

  1. Bill Clinton is my hero and still is. I was born and bred in the U.K. but have lived in Canada longer than in England. I’ve always been profoundly interested in politics but after another iconic figure, Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, died I turned to U.S. politics to get “my fix”. I am so looking forward to watching this program and now I know it’s on for two nights!

    THANK YOU PBS for all your GREAT programming. “Downton Abbey” is unbelievable, can’t get enough. Tony Bennett’s Duets 11 was superb.

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About Elaine Bergstrom 212 Articles
Feature writer, writing coach and novelist (12 published, another on the way) in the genre of horror/vampire fiction