Kennedy killing means great non-fiction telly

Last updated 10:31 19/11/2013

It might be morbid curiosity, but I've always been fascinated by the assassination of President John F Kennedy. The 35th president of the United States was killed just under fifty years ago in one of the most read about, most watched, most debated over events in the history of the world - at around 7.30am Saturday, our time, it will have been exactly fifty years since those fateful shots rang out from the Texas Schoolbook Depository ... or the grassy knoll, depending on your stance.

20131119Its times like this that Sky TV's range of documentary channels come into their own: tune in at any stage this week, and its likely you'll run into something about the JFK assassination - or that something will be coming on soon.

In fact, tune in to National Geographic channel tonight at 7.30pm, and you'll find one of my favourite JFK-related productions to date: Killing Kennedy is based on the book by Bill O'Reilly and Martin Dugard, and produced by Ridley Scott, and stars Rob Lowe as the ill-fated president.

The film is a good summation of the events both on and leading up to that day - we see JFK win the presidency and endure some of the challenges of his time in office (the Bay Of Pigs fiasco, the Cuba missile crisis), while frequently cutting to Lee Harvey Oswald as he turns on his home country and tries to set up a family in Russia, before heading home and letting his beliefs overtake his humanity. The story of how the assassination took place is riveting in and of itself, and Killing Kennedy does a good job of translating that to screen.

Lowe nails the mannerisms of the former president, while Ginnifer Goodwin (Once Upon A Time) does some good work as the oft-mistreated Jackie Kennedy. Jack Noseworthy is really good as Robert Kennedy, who was shot several years later. Killing Kennedy is an entertaining film - albeit a made-for-TV movie - that tells the story efficiently.

However, Killing Kennedy does not enter into any discussion on what happened that day. The movie, and presumably the book on which it's based, takes the Warren Commission at its word: Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in killing the president, and Jack Ruby shot Oswald in cold blood because he was distressed about what had happened.

There are a great many theories about what happened that day. My first introduction to the various conspiracy theories was Oliver Stone's JFK, a rather brilliant (albeit long) dramatization of the first (and only) criminal trial brought against anybody who might have been involved in any conspiracy - in this case, New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison charging a local businessman with conspiracy to commit murder.

I love the idea that a conspiracy like this could have taken place, and some of the evidence is pretty convincing. But like the many claims that the moon landings were faked or that George W Bush ordered the attacks on September 11, 2001, I find it hard to believe that so many people could keep something like this secret for so long. Sure, cynics would remind us that history is, as Bonaparte once said, a set of lies agreed upon. But how many people would be agreeing on the lies at the centre of any JFK assassination conspiracy theory? Hundreds? Thousands?

I'm not sure that a document like the Warren Commission is the complete story. But I do think it's a lot closer to the truth than any of the wild claims that have been offered as alternatives in the fifty years since.

No matter what you believe, though, it seems like there is a little something for everybody - and I've included a full list of everything below, starting with Killing Kennedy tonight at 7.30pm, National Geographic. In the meantime ...

Do you find the JFK assassination as fascinating as I do? Do you believe Oswald acted alone? Or are you a conspiracy theorist? And will you be checking out any of the JFK-centric programming this week?

Here is a list of programming on Sky TV's documentary channels over the next few nights - as I say, I just find this subject fascinating, and I hope you'll find something worth watching amongst this lot ...

TUESDAY
Killing Kennedy (National Geographic, 7.30pm)

WEDNESDAY
JFK: Seven Days That Made A President (National Geographic, 7.30pm)

THURSDAY
JFK: The Final Hours (National Geographic, 7.30pm)
JFK: The Lost Tapes (Discovery, 8.30pm)
The President's Gatekeepers (Discovery, 9.30pm)
Capturing Oswald (Discovery, 10.30pm)

FRIDAY
The Day Kennedy Died (History, 7.30pm)

SATURDAY
One PM (Arts Channel, 7.30pm)
JFK Assassination: The Definitive Guide (History, 8.30pm)
The Secret KGB KFK Assassination Files (History, 10.30pm)

SUNDAY
JFK's Women: Scandals Revealed (BBC Knowledge, 8.30pm)

MONDAY
Lee Harvey Oswald: 48 Hours To Live (History, 9.30pm)

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