JFK assassination 50th anniversary TV programming

Jeff Pfeiffer

50 years ago this month — on Nov. 22, 1963 — President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by, it is presumed, Lee Harvey Oswald (himself later shot and killed by Jack Ruby). The JFK assassination caused political, social and emotional upheavals throughout the world, especially, of course, in America.

But while the JFK assassination is an event embedded forever in American history, the 50-year distance may put its significance out of the reach of generations born well after the fact. Rob Lowe, who plays JFK in the film Killing Kennedy, told me in a recent interview, “I don’t think [younger generations] realize just the sort of personal, human, emotional trauma that it caused the world.” Lowe himself was still a few months from being born at the time of the JFK assassination but recalled the sense of psychic devastation felt by his parents and others who were more aware in the years following it.

jfk american experience 2

Perhaps the multitude of programs, including Killing Kennedy, airing this month in remembrance of the JFK assassination 50th anniversary will help give younger people some sense of the impact it had on earlier generations. The programs will also, of course, remind those who were alive at the time of what they were feeling. Ultimately, the programming this month should aid Americans in coming together and making sure our shared history is not lost. As Lowe also told me in the interview, “Just because it’s clichéd doesn’t make it any less true, that we’re 50 years, this November, of the beginning of our loss of innocence as a country. So to go back and revisit it, not only as a reminder and a teaching tool for people who might not know, I think it’s a good thing because we can remember how we felt, and what we thought was possible, and where we thought we were going, and there’s no reason we can’t go there today.”

JFK Assassination 50th Anniversary TV Programming (all times ET; check back for updates and additions. Many of these shows will repeat throughout the month, but first air dates only are listed here.)

The Kennedys — Nov. 3 from 12pm-8pm on ReelzChannel. ReelzChannel re-airs its controversial 2011 miniseries, starring Greg Kinnear and Katie Holmes, in its entirety, leading into its new special JFK: The Smoking Gun.

JFK: The Smoking Gun — Nov. 3 at 8pm on ReelzChannel. This docudrama is based on the work of veteran police detective Colin McLaren, who spent four years on the forensic cold case investigation of JFK’s assassination. McLaren believes he has found the “smoking gun” that killed the president.

JFK: The Lost Bullet — Nov. 8 at 7pm on NGC. This special features home videos from the JFK assassination, including the restored Zapruder film, remastered in high definition and combined together into one film. The digital scans include details in the areas of exposed film between the sprocket holes. Can the obscured information shed light on some of the controversies surrounding JFK’s death?

JFK: The Final Hours — Nov. 8 at 8pm on NGC. Premiering a few days ahead of the network’s Killing Kennedy, this two-hour National Geographic Channel documentary retraces the final day of President John F. Kennedy’s life through firsthand accounts from those who were there. Actor Bill Paxton, who, as a child, was among those in the crowd of a Fort Worth hotel parking lot where Kennedy gave one of his last public speeches shortly before his death, hosts the special. “I was 8 years old that day,” recalls Paxton in an NGC release, “and I remember thinking it was like seeing a movie star. There stood a man at the peak of his life and his career, but little did he or any of us know that in three hours he would be murdered in cold blood.”

The Lost JFK Tapes: The Assassination — Nov. 8 at 10pm on NGC. This program reveals rarely seen archival footage of the JFK assassination that has been digitally captured and assembled into a detailed timeline. Included is footage capturing the real-time horror of parade-goers who witnessed the killing, the out-of-breath local anchors reporting the breaking news bulletin, the priest who describes administering the president’s last rites and the ongoing, on-air speculation over who fired the fatal shots.

Fox News Reporting: 50 Years of Questions: The JFK Assassination — Nov. 9 at 9pm on FOX News Channel (FNC). Bill Hemmer hosts this special that looks at the controversy surrounding the FBI investigation, the autopsy report and the Warren Commission’s findings following the Kennedy assassination. Hemmer sits down in an exclusive interview with U.S. Justice Department prosecutor John T. Orr, who launched his own investigation in 1995, about his findings of the FBI withholding forensic details of the JFK investigation. Additionally, key witnesses including former U.S. Secret Service agent Clint Hill and bystanders who were later not interviewed by the Warren Commission share their account of the incident. Also, medical experts, historians, researchers and former members of the House Select Committee on Assassinations weigh in on the possibility of a conspiracy, and FNC’s Bill O’Reilly, author of Killing Kennedy, shares his views on the event.

Killing Kennedy — Nov. 10 at 8pm on NGC. This film is based on Bill O’Reilly’s bestseller and chronicles the fateful collision course between the disparate lives of President John F. Kennedy (Rob Lowe) and Lee Harvey Oswald (Will Rothhaar). The film also stars Ginnifer Goodwin as Jackie Kennedy, and Michelle Trachtenberg (who speaks about 80 percent of her role in Russian) as Oswald’s wife, Marina.


JFK: American Experience — Nov. 11-12 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). This new, four-hour portrait of John F. Kennedy airs over two nights. It offers a fresh assessment of the man, his accomplishments and his unfulfilled promise, featuring interviews with Kennedy family members as well as historians.

jfk american experience

Capturing Oswald — Nov. 12 at 10pm on Military Channel. To mark the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, retired homicide detectives and officers from the Dallas Police Department (DPD) break their silence about the events of Nov. 22, 1963, in the Military Channel’s one-hour documentary. Many of them haven’t spoken publicly in years about the tragic events which unfolded on that fateful day but now, for the first time ever, they come together to provide a collective, detailed account of the DPD investigation that had JFK’s alleged assassin in custody within 90 minutes of the shooting.

NOVA: “Cold Case JFK” — Nov. 13 at 9pm on PBS (check local listings). This episode of NOVA looks to see what modern science can tell us about the shooting in Dallas and the investigations that followed. A team of foremost experts employs exclusive tests and sophisticated new technology to reconstruct and review the evidence. The program marks the first time since the original investigation by the FBI laboratory that forensic scientists trained and experienced in both firearms identification and shooting-scene reconstruction review and evaluate the ballistics evidence in the JFK assassination.

Secrets of the Dead: “JFK: One PM Central Standard Time” — Nov. 13 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings). This special, narrated by George Clooney, chronicles minute-by-minute the assassination of Kennedy as it was revealed, from the moment the president was shot until newsman Walter Cronkite’s tearful pronouncement of his death one hour and eight minutes later. Rarely seen archival footage from the CBS newsroom and local broadcasts in Dallas are featured.

The Assassination of President Kennedy — Nov. 14 at 9pm on CNN. The program will explore the key conclusions of the Warren Commission, as well as the shocking impact of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, ahead of the 50th anniversary on Nov. 22. This two-hour special is the first episode of CNN’s new 10-part documentary series The Sixties, from producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, which will air in its entirety on CNN in 2014.

Meet the Press — Nov. 17 on NBC (check local listings). Tom Brokaw joins the roundtable to discuss his documentary Where Were You: The Day JFK Died, airing later that week.

CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood — Nov. 17 at 9am on CBS. This special edition will focus on the life and legacy of John F. Kennedy, and is anchored by Charles Osgood from New York. Rita Braver will look back on the man who was JFK, how he rose to prominence, and what his Presidency meant to the country. Susan Spencer will explore the life of First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, her marriage to JFK, and how she helped the nation heal after her—and our—loss. Martha Teichner will report on the mystique behind the “Camelot” era, as the Kennedy presidency came to be known. Mo Rocca will look at the city of Dallas, and how it’s changed in the years following the President’s death. Also among a variety of stories in the broadcast, Tracy Smith will report on the never-ending conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination; Lee Cowan examines the story behind the creation of the eternal flame that burns at Kennedy’s grave site in the Arlington National Cemetery; and Michelle Miller will report on the President’s invaluable trove of personal letters.

This Week with George Stephanopoulos — Nov. 17 at 10am on ABC. This installment will feature a special tribute to President John F. Kennedy and a live panel discussion on the impact and significance of the Kennedy legacy 50 years later.

The Day Kennedy Died — Nov. 17 at 9pm on Smithsonian Channel. Kevin Spacey narrates this two-hour look at the Kennedy assassination that uses eyewitness accounts, rarely seen film and photographs to present a minute-by-minute recounting of the infamous day in Dallas. Among the participants in the film who were actually there that day and offer their accounts are a Secret Service agent who agonized that he was too late; the doctor who tried to save Kennedy; the man wrongly accused of JFK’s murder; a woman who discovered she had sheltered Lee Harvey Oswald the night before; and a bystander who was injured by shrapnel from one of the bullets fired at the president.

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Letters to Jackie: Remembering President Kennedy — Nov. 17 at 9pm on TLC. This two-hour film revisits the months following the assassination of President Kennedy, when the first lady became the heart of the nation. In response, thousands of U.S. citizens and mourners around the world reached out in support. In the film, celebrities lend their voices to give life to some of the powerful letters Jackie Kennedy received. Among the stars providing voices are Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis, Zooey Deschanel, Anne Hathaway, John Krasinski, Laura Linney, Mark Ruffalo, Octavia Spencer and Channing Tatum.

TODAY — Nov. 18 at 7am on NBC. Savannah Guthrie’s interview with former Secret Service agent and author Clint Hill, who wrote the book Five Days in November, will air.

NBC Nightly News — Nov. 18-22 at 6:30pm on NBC. The show will provide special coverage of the anniversary throughout the week, culminating in a live broadcast anchored by Brian Williams in Dallas on Nov. 22.

My Days in Dallas: A Remembrance With Dan Rather — Nov. 18 & 22 at 8pm on AXS TV. An eyewitness to history, Dan Rather remembers the days in Dallas 50 years after the assassination of JFK. During the program, Rather talks about seeing the presidential limousine race past him as he waited down the road from where the actual assassination took place. He knew something was wrong, but could never have imagined what. Rather offers his first-hand account of the day.

TODAY — Nov. 19 at 7am on NBC. Matt Lauer’s interview with Mary Ann Moorman-Krahmer, who photographed the moment JFK was first shot by Lee Harvey Oswald, airs. Matt and Mary Ann retraced that day in Dealey Plaza.

Frontline: “Who Was Lee Harvey Oswald?” — Nov. 19 at 10pm on PBS (check local listings). Was Lee Harvey Oswald the emotionally disturbed lone gunman of the 1964 Warren Commission report? Was he, as the House Select Committee on Assassinations concluded, probably part of a conspiracy on that day in Dallas? Or was he an unwitting fall guy, the patsy, as Oswald himself claimed when he was arrested on Nov. 22, 1963? FRONTLINE marks the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination with a two-hour reprise of its investigative biography of the man at the center of the political crime of the 20th century.

TODAY — Nov. 20 at 7am on NBC. Matt Lauer takes viewers on a tour of the Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza, formerly the Texas School Book Depository, where Oswald worked and shot the president from a sixth floor window on the southeast corner.

Good Morning America — Nov. 21 at 7am on ABC. The show will provide an exclusive first look at the newly released audio recordings of police, investigators and on-site reporters from the day President Kennedy was shot. These recordings will be featured in the Discovery Channel special JFK: The Lost Tapes later that evening.

TODAY — Nov. 21 at 7am on NBC. Lester Holt reports live from Dallas as he takes a look back at JFK, regarded by some as the first modern-day president.

JFK: The Lost Tapes — Nov. 21 at 7pm on Discovery Channel; Nov. 22 at 9pm on Military Channel. In this one-hour special, new government tapes from Air Force One offer insight into what happened that fateful day in Dallas, and the inside story of a government struggling to come to grips with a crisis spiraling further out of control with each passing minute. Never-before-heard radio recordings from the Dallas Police Department reveal the desperate search for evidence, the frantic manhunt, and the crucial moments that led to the identification and arrest of Lee Harvey Oswald. Amid it all, news radio reports from around Dallas reveal the panic and chaos that threatened to engulf the city.

The Lost Kennedy Home Movies — Nov. 21 at 8pm on H2. Gathered from archives and attics and now seen for the first time, these extremely rare home movies tell the story of the children of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, as they grew up in the 1930s and ’40s through November 1963, and include scenes of the last weekend Jack and Jackie Kennedy spent with Caroline and John Jr., just two weeks before Dallas.

JFK — Nov. 21 at 8pm on HDNet Movies. In remembrance of the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, HDNet Movies airs Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning 1991 film. Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Gary Oldman, Donald Sutherland, Jack Lemmon, Joe Pesci, John Candy, Walter Matthau and Ed Asner star.

TCM Commemorates the JFK Assassination 50th Anniversary — Nov. 21 beginning at 8pm on TCM. Turner Classic Movies commemorates the event with a primetime lineup of five documentaries about John F. Kennedy’s election, presidency and tragic death. Also included is a popular drama about Kennedy’s service during World War II. The first four documentaries airing were filmed by Robert Drew in the early 1960s — Primary (1960) focuses on the 1960 Wisconsin Democratic Primary contest between JFK and Hubert Humphrey; Adventures on the New Frontier (1961) looks at the first days of the newly elected President Kennedy; Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment (1963) details the Kennedy administration’s showdown with Alabama Gov. George Wallace over racial integration; and Faces of November (1964) focuses on the assassination of JFK as seen through the faces of mourners at his funeral. This is followed by Mel Stuart’s 1964 documentary Four Days in November, an Oscar-nominated chronicle of the assassination and the days after; and the 1963 drama PT 109, starring Cliff Robertson as a young John Kennedy.

The Kennedy Assassination: 24 Hours After — Nov. 21 at 10pm on H2. This 2009 special uses never-before-seen transcripts only recently made public to piece together the 24-hour period after the shots were fired. The timeline reveals startling new information about the death of the president and the traumatic transfer of power to his successor, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson.

ABC coverage of the JFK assassination 50th anniversary day ceremonies — Nov. 22 on ABC. On the actual 50th anniversary date, ABC will feature live reporting from Dallas on Good Morning America (7am), followed by a series of reports on World News with Diane Sawyer (6:30pm). Sawyer will have a special report on the lives of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Caroline Kennedy. Byron Pitts will investigate the many conspiracy theories that have swirled around the JFK assassination, and Pitts will also report on the day’s events from Dallas. ABC’s Nightline (12:35am) travels back to the scene with the millennial generation family members of key participants in the events of Nov. 22, 1963, who discuss the impact the assassination had on their own lives and on the country. Online, ABC News Digital will kick off special live-stream coverage of the 50th anniversary ceremonies at the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston on Nov. 22 across ABCNews.com, GoodMorningAmerica.com and ABC News iPad, iPhone and Android apps.

TODAY — Nov. 22 at 7am on NBC. Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather will be live in studio with Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie with a preview of Brokaw’s documentary, Where Were You: The Day JFK Died. Lester Holt will report from Dallas.

Commander In Chief: Inside the Oval Office: “Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis” — Nov. 22 at 8pm on Military Channel. First aired last year to mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this episode brings viewers inside the tense and contentious debates that took place in the White House in October of 1962 as the U.S. and the Soviet Union teetered on the brink of nuclear war. Using rare images and declassified audio recordings, this behind-the-scenes story takes viewers deep into chambers of power where President John F. Kennedy resisted forces pushing him toward war and pulled the world back from the edge of destruction.

JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide — Nov. 22 at 8pm on History. In this two-hour special, History reveals the findings from a survey it conducted on the JFK assassination, about which conspiracy theories still run rampant. Among its findings — 74 percent of Americans believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the fall guy for a larger alternate theory. The program explores the myriad alternative theories that Americans find more plausible.

JFK: In His Own Words — Nov. 22 at 9pm on HBO. This encore presentation of the 1988 special documentary. Featuring rare film footage and audio tapes, the special follows President Kennedy’s life from childhood through his election to the presidency, and the thousand days of his administration..

Tom Brokaw Special: Where Were You? — Nov. 22 at 9pm on NBC. This two-hour special looks back at the infamous date of Nov. 22, 1963. By combining archival footage with first-person stories of those who lived through the JFK assassination, the program looks to offer a new perspective on the event. According to NBC special correspondent Tom Brokaw, who hosts this special, “The assassination of this vibrant young president who was changing American politics and expectations for the future was a monumental event in a century filled with epic developments. A half century later we’re still bewildered, wondering and trying to cope with who he was and how his death changed us.”

Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours to Live — Nov. 22 at 10pm on History. This two-hour special is an account of the intense, final two days of Lee Harvey Oswald’s life — his attempt to flee, his capture by police and the grueling interrogation by the Dallas police detectives prior to being shot by Jack Ruby.


Kennedy image: © Corbis. All Rights Reserved. Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Library

JFK: American Experience: Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

The Day Kennedy Died: LBJ Library photo by Cecil Stoughton/Courtesy of Smithsonian Channel


  1. Hello. Have you read “The Man On The Grassy Knoll”?
    The book was published without an author, but released by his attorneys as ordered by the real author. DO NOT PRETEND TO KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT THE SHOOTING UNTIL YOU READ THIS BOOK….YES QUESTIONABLE, BUT VERY INTERESTING. IT OFFERS SOME Plausible comments and ideals.

    GO ON Amazon.com to get a copy. I hope I got the name right, but I loaned my copy out and it has not been returned as of this date.

  2. This article opens with…. 50 years ago this month — on Nov. 22, 1963 — President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald…… As Lee Harvey Oswald never stood trial and there is so much controversy regarding this matter I feel this statement cannot be made with any authority

  3. Hi there, I live in Ireland and I would love to able to watch these programmes. I’ve just got my degree in Modern History from Queens University Belfast and I hope to teach history in the very near future. How would I go about acquiring these programmes for my own interests and for my teaching career.

    Yours Faithfully

    Brendan G. Rafferty

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