"American Experience" Opens New Season With "Bonnie & Clyde"

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15 January 2016
American Experience
“The Mine Wars” / Courtesy of Library of Congress
"American Experience"
Season Premiere Tuesday, January 19 on PBS
(Check local listings)
From the Depths of West Virginia Coal Mines to the
Outer Reaches of Space, From the White House to Jazz Age Chicago,
New Season Provides Fresh Insights into America's Past

         AMERICAN EXPERIENCE returns in January 2016 with a new lineup of films that explore more of the fascinating characters and epic stories that have shaped our nation's past and present. The season opens on Tuesday, January 19th with Bonnie & Clyde, a fresh look at the mythic outlaws whose romance and lethal crime spree capture the popular imagination to this day. Debuting the following week on January 26th is The Mine Wars, the overlooked story of miners in the mountains of southern West Virginia who came together in a protracted struggle for their rights.  

         Premiering February 2 is Murder of a President, the latest entry in the Peabody Award-winning AMERICAN EXPERIENCE series, The Presidents. Based on Candice Millard's bestseller Destiny of the Republic, the film tells the story of James A. Garfield, one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president, and his assassination by a deluded madman. Starring Tony Award winner Shuler Hensley as Garfield and Kathryn Erbe (Law & Order: Criminal Intent) as his wife Lucretia, the film follows Garfield's unprecedented rise to power, his shooting, and its bizarre and tragic aftermath. The Perfect Crime, premiering February 9, is a re-examination of the notorious Leopold and Loeb murder case and Clarence Darrow's groundbreaking anti-death penalty defense. Finally, premiering March 1 is Space Men, the thrilling but little-known story of the brave men whose daring experiments would lead the way for NASA's manned space program. Additional new specials for the summer and fall will be announced at a later date.

          "This season, we're pleased to delve into some American stories that many of our viewers may know little about," said Mark Samels, executive producer of AMERICAN EXPERIENCE. "Murder of a President reminds us what an extraordinary man President Garfield was and unravels the horrifying sequence of events that led to his death. Both The Mine Wars and Space Men celebrate unsung heroes: the West Virginia miners who banded together to fight for their dignity and rights as Americans, and the brave men who took part in a little-known research program charged with testing the limits of human endurance at the edge of space. We also re-examine two of the most notorious criminal duos from the early part of the 20th century -- Bonnie and Clyde and Leopold and Loeb, offering new insight on a pair of true crime stories that continue to fascinate close to 100 years later."

Bonnie & Clyde - Tuesday, January 19, 2016, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Written, Produced and Directed by John Maggio

          Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow had been on a year-long crime spree, leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake, yet were little more than a local curiosity until photos of the couple were discovered. The image of a beret-clad Bonnie, cigar in mouth, pistol in hand, striking a defiantly provocative pose, would soon achieve near mythic status. Overnight, Bonnie and Clyde joined the ranks of other celebrity 'public enemies' who emerged during the Great Depression to capture the country's imagination. Told through interviews with cultural historians and descendants of the outlaws and those who captured them, Bonnie & Clyde explores the romantic rise and gruesome end of the lovers.
The Mine Wars -Tuesday, January 26, 2016, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Produced and Directed by Randall MacLowry

         At the dawn of the 20th century, coal was the fuel that powered the nation. Yet few Americans thought much about the men who blasted the black rock from underground and hauled it to the surface. The Mine Wars tells the overlooked story of the miners in the mountains of southern West Virginia -- native mountaineers, African American migrants, and European immigrants -- who came together in a protracted struggle for their rights. Decades of violence accompanied their attempts to form a union, culminating in the Battle of Blair Mountain in 1921, the largest armed insurrection since the Civil War. The West Virginia mine wars raised profound questions about what freedom and democracy meant to working people in an industrial society.
Murder of a President - Tuesday, February 2, 2016, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET
Written, Produced and Directed by Rob Rapley

         Based on Candice Millard's best-seller Destiny of the Republic, the film is the story of James A. Garfield, one of the most extraordinary men ever elected president, his shooting by a deluded madman, and its bizarre and tragic aftermath. Just four months after Garfield took office, Charles Guiteau shot him in a Washington, D.C. train station. Amazingly, Garfield survived and for the next 79 days the nation held its breath while his medical team and others -- including inventor Alexander Graham Bell -- struggled in vain to keep him alive. Featuring Shuler Hensley, Kathryn Erbe, and Will Janowitz, the sweeping and dramatic story of Garfield's life combines science and medicine, party politics and love.
The Perfect Crime - Tuesday, February 9, 2016, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Produced and Directed by Cathleen O'Connell

         In 1924, the murder of a 14-year-old boy by two wealthy college students shocked the nation. But more horrifying than the brutal killing was the motive: Leopold and Loeb admitted they planned to abduct and kill a child at random simply for the thrill of it. Clarence Darrow's fight to save the killers from the death penalty laid the groundwork for arguments still used in courtrooms today.
Space Men - Tuesday, March 1, 2016, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET
Written, Produced and Directed by Amanda Pollak

          In the spring of 1959, NASA introduced Americans to a new kind of hero -- the astronaut. But deep in the New Mexico desert, far from the Project Mercury spotlight, the Air Force was also preparing to launch a man towards the heavens. With a fraction of NASA's budget and none of its renown, Project Excelsior was about to send Captain Joseph Kittinger 100,000 feet above earth, propelled there not by rocket, but by balloon. Though largely forgotten, this group of explorers would be the first to venture into the frozen vacuum on the edge of our world, testing the very limits of human physiology and human ingenuity in this deadly realm.
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