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American Experience Season 17

PBS
Here's where to watch every episode of American Experience season 17. Mouseover or tap an episode to see where to stream it. Click or tap the play icon to stream it on the best available service.
Season 17, Episode 01 RFK (Part 1 & 2)

S17 E01

Oct 5, 2004
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RFK (Part 1 & 2) Oct 5, 2004 A shy, if driven man, Robert Kennedy "wasn't built for the spotlight, he was built for the wings," says journalist Jack Newfield. While John Kennedy was alive, that's where Bobby stayed -- making certain that JFK remained in the spotlight.

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Season 17, Episode 02 RFK (2): The Awful Grace of God

S17 E02

Oct 5, 2004
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RFK (2): The Awful Grace of God Oct 5, 2004 After Nov. 22, 1963, "we saw [RFK] grow," says civil-rights veteran John Lewis. Kennedy's famously tense relationship with LBJ was ruptured beyond repair by Vietnam, and he made the plight of the dispossessed his moral and political passion. Says Newfield: "He saw somebody hurting and he hurt."

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Season 17, Episode 03 The Fight

S17 E03

Jan 25, 2005
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The Fight Jan 25, 2005 "The Fight" recalls the June 1938 heavyweight title bout between Joe Louis and the German Max Schmeling, and assesses its political and social ramifications. "It was going to pit whole nations and whole ideologies against each other," says narrator Courtney B. Vance. Producer-director Barak Goodman also explores Louis's place in America's racial divide as well as the genial Schmeling's ties to Hitler.

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Season 17, Episode 04 Fidel Castro

S17 E04

Feb 1, 2005
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Fidel Castro Feb 1, 2005 Fidel Castro's march through Cuba and the second half of the 20th century is chronicled by filmmaker Adriana Bosch. Here, Cuban exiles and former Castro confreres, foreign-policy experts, a former Castro brother-in-law and his daughter Alina Fernandez paint a portrait of a dictator, a social reformer -- and a survivor.

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Season 17, Episode 05 Building the Alaskan Highway

S17 E05

Feb 8, 2005
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Building the Alaskan Highway Feb 8, 2005 Recalls the construction of the 1500-mile "shortcut to Tokyo" through Canada in 1942 by 11,000 U.S. troops (4,000 of them black). It wasn't the Army's greatest World War II triumph, but it was one of the first, and it gave Americans, who feared a Japanese buildup in the Aleutians, a needed morale boost. This hour is light on military and engineering detail, and packed with proud GIs recalling mud, cold and toil.

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Season 17, Episode 06 Kinsey

S17 E06

Feb 15, 2005
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Kinsey Feb 15, 2005 Profiling Dr. Alfred Kinsey, the Indiana University zoologist whose "revolutionary picture of American sexuality" rocked the country in the late 1940s and early '50s. Filmmakers Barak Goodman and John Maggio interview Kinsey colleagues and biographers, along with people took part in his studies, to paint a portrait of an "unyielding" proponent of sexual freedom who practiced what he preached. Says sexologist Paul Gebhard, a Kinsey assistant: "He was a rebel."

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Season 17, Episode 07 Mary Pickford

S17 E07

Apr 5, 2005
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Mary Pickford Apr 5, 2005 Profiling Mary Pickford, the silent-screen "sweetheart" who blazed the trail to Hollywood and became "America's first superstar." Pickford (1893-1979) was also an astute businesswoman: She founded United Artists with Charlie Chaplin and her husband-to-be Douglas Fairbanks. But, as filmmaker Sue Williams stresses here, there was no glorious sunset. As Pickford biographer Eileen Whitfield puts it, she was "the first has-been created by film."

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Season 17, Episode 08 The Great Transatlantic Cable

S17 E08

Apr 12, 2005
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The Great Transatlantic Cable Apr 12, 2005 Cyrus Field's struggle to lay telegraph cables across the Atlantic in the 1850s and '60s is chronicled. When Field finally succeeded, in 1866, it marked "the annihilation of space and time," says historian David Czitrom. But the 13-year effort -- recalled here in re-creations and comments from historians and engineers -- included many false starts and one spectacular failure. Still, says Czitrom, "he never let up."

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Season 17, Episode 09 The Fall of Saigon

S17 E09

Apr 26, 2005
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The Fall of Saigon Apr 26, 2005 "The Fall of Saigon" is the final episode of the multi-award-winning 1983 series "Vietnam: A Television History." Told in news clips and recollections by Vietnamese and Americans (including Gerald R. Ford and Henry Kissinger), the hour begins with the January 1973 peace treaty. It amounted to "a death sentence" for South Vietnam, says a South Vietnamese colonel. And when the end came, it was chaotic. "We really just cut and ran," recalls U.S. aide William LeGro.

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Season 17, Episode 10 Victory in the Pacific

S17 E10

May 10, 2005
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Victory in the Pacific May 10, 2005 How the end of World War II in the Pacific Theater affected Americans and Japanese.

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Season 17, Episode 11 The Carter Family: Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

S17 E11

May 24, 2005
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The Carter Family: Will the Circle Be Unbroken? May 24, 2005 Recalls "the first family of country music" in interviews with Carter relatives, music writers, and singers Gillian Welch, Joan Baez, Marty Stuart and Rodney Crowell. The tough early lives of A.P. Carter, his sister Maybelle and wife Sara were lightened by music, and their 1927 RCA audition proved to be "the big bang of commercial country music." But A.P. and Sara's marriage couldn't survive the turmoil that followed.

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Season 17, Episode 12 Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst

S17 E12

May 24, 2005
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Guerilla: The Taking of Patty Hearst May 24, 2005 The kidnapping of the heiress and her later sympathies to the cause of her captors.

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Season 17, Episode 13 The Massie Affair

S17 E13

Apr 26, 2005
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The Massie Affair Apr 26, 2005 "The Massie Affair" chronicles a 1931 Honolulu rape case involving a young white Navy wife that became even more serious when one of the acquitted Hawaiian defendants was later kidnapped and murdered. Although marital discord and social "honor" play into the story, it's mostly about stark racial injustice that touched even the White House. It uncovers "cold, hard truths about America and the people who ruled it."

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