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Premieres Tuesday, January 10th at 8:00 p.m. on WTVP-HD with Billy the Kid


Wednesday, December 28th, 2011


Wanted Poser of Billy the Kid

– The Real Story Behind the Wild West’s Most Notorious Heroes, Outlaws, Legends and Desperadoes –


AMERICAN EXPERIENCE, television's most-watched history series and the recipient of 30 Emmy Awards, will launch its 24th season this in January with a month-long re-examination of some of the most controversial and mythic figures of the Wild West. The western series begins with a new look at Billy the Kid on January 10. Directed by John Maggio (The Lobotomist, Kinsey), Billy the Kid reveals how a skinny Irish orphan boy from New York City became the most wanted man in the West. Then, on January 17, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE premieres Custer’s Last Stand, an illuminating new two-hour biography of one of the most celebrated and controversial icons of nineteenth-century America, directed by Stephen Ives (The West, Seabiscuit).

“We’re thrilled to start our 24th season by presenting the real stories behind two of the most mythologized figures of the American West,” says AMERICAN EXPERIENCE Executive Producer Mark Samels. “While many of us have heard the phrase ‘Custer’s Last Stand,’ that watershed event can’t be truly understood without really getting to the heart of who Custer was — a charismatic, complicated, flawed, egotistical and brilliant general. His life and career provide a fascinating lens through which to examine the story of America in the second half of the 19th century. And Billy the Kid may be the most fascinating and enigmatic of all the Western icons. His life was so short and we know so little about him, which left lots of room for the legends that were created about him. This new film reclaims Billy and explores his journey from the slums of New York to the vastness of New Mexico, where he finds himself at the intersection of three great worlds: the Mexican, the Native American, and the incoming Anglo world. As with Custer, we dig deep to reveal who Billy really was and what he can tell us about the American West and ourselves.”

In addition to the premieres of Billy the Kid and Custer’s Last Stand, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE will present encore broadcasts of Wyatt Earp, Geronimo, Annie Oakley, and Jesse James.

Now airing on Tuesdays, the complete broadcast schedule of the Wild West collection follows:

  • Billy the Kid - Premiere
    Jan. 10 from 8-9:00 p.m.
    Written, Produced and Directed by John Maggio
    On April 28, 1881, twenty-one-year-old Henry McCarty, alias Billy the Kid, just days from being hanged for murder, outfoxed his jailors and electrified the nation with the latest in a long line of daring escapes. An outlaw with a deadly reputation, the young man was finally gunned down by an ambitious sheriff just a few weeks later; his capture and death was front page news. The Kid was soon mythologized by a never-ending stream of dime store novels and big-screen dramas but, in all the tellings, Billy the Kid’s real story has been obscured. This new biography tells the real story of the skinny orphan boy who became the most wanted man in the West.

  • Custer’s Last Stand - Premiere
    Jan. 17 from 7–9:00 p.m.
    Produced by Amanda Pollak; Written and Directed by Stephen Ives
    This two-hour biography of one of the most charismatic and contradictory American leaders of the 19th century takes viewers on a journey from Custer’s memorable charge at Gettysburg to his lonely death on the windswept Plains of the West. Along the way, viewers learn how this supremely ambitious son of a blacksmith ricocheted from triumph to disaster, from battlefield heroism to impetuous escapade. In the end, Custer’s reputation was saved by the wife he adored, who almost single-handedly turned the Battle of the Little Bighorn into one of the most iconic events in American history and mythologized Custer’s role — turning it into a tale of heroic sacrifice with only the most noble of motives.

  • Wyatt Earp - Encore Broadcast
    Jan. 24, 7-8:00 p.m.
    Written, Produced and Directed by Rob Rapley
    Wyatt Earp has been portrayed in countless movies and television shows but these popular fictions belie the complexities and flaws of a man whose life is a lens on politics, justice and economic opportunity on the American frontier. He was a caricature of the Western lawman, and after his death in 1929, distressed Americans transformed him into a folk hero: a central figure in how the West was won, a man who took control of his own destiny.

  • Geronimo - Encore Broadcast
    Jan. 24 from 8-9:00 p.m.
    Produced and Directed by Dustinn Craig and Sarah Colt
    As the leader of the last Native American fighting force to capitulate to the U.S. government, Geronimo was seen by some as the perpetrator of unspeakable savage cruelties, while to others he was the embodiment of proud resistance. Geronimo originally aired as part of the acclaimed series We Shall Remain; watch the entire series online at pbs.org/wgbh/amex/weshallremain/.

  • Annie Oakley - Encore Broadcast
    Jan. 31 from 7-8:00 p.m.
    Produced and Directed by Riva Freifeld
    She was the toast of Victorian London, New York, and Paris. She was “adopted” by Indian chief Sitting Bull, charmed the Prince of Prussia, and entertained the likes of Oscar Wilde and Queen Victoria. Annie Oakley excelled in a man’s world by doing what she loved, and won fame and fortune as the little lady from Ohio who never missed a shot.

  • Jesse James - Encore Broadcast
    Jan. 31 from 8-9:00 p.m.
    Written, Produced, and Directed by Mark Zwonitzer
    The story of Jesse James remains one of America’s most cherished myths — and one of its most wrong-headed. A product of the American Civil War, James was less heroic than brutal; America’s own Robin Hood who robbed not only the rich, but the poor and defenseless as well, always saving the treasure for himself.





MARK SAMELS (Executive Producer) Under Samels’ leadership, the series has been honored with nearly every industry award, including the Peabody, Primetime Emmys, the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, Writers Guild Awards, Oscar nominations, and Sundance Film Festival Audience and Grand Jury Awards. Samels also serves on the Board of Governors at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Prior to joining WGBH, Samels worked as an independent documentary filmmaker, an executive producer for several U.S. public television stations and as a producer for the first co-production between Japanese and American television. A native of Wisconsin, he is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin- Madison.

Television’s most-watched history series, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE has been hailed as “peerless” (Wall Street Journal), “the most consistently enriching program on television” (Chicago Tribune), and “a beacon of intelligence and purpose” (Houston Chronicle). On air and online, the series brings to life the incredible characters and epic stories that have shaped America’s past and present. Acclaimed by viewers and critics alike, AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentaries have been honored with every major broadcast award, including 14 George Foster Peabody Awards, four duPont-Columbia Awards, and 30 Emmy Awards, including, most recently, Exceptional Merit in Nonfiction Filmmaking for Freedom Riders.

Exclusive corporate funding for AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is provided by Liberty Mutual. Major funding is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and public television viewers. AMERICAN EXPERIENCE is produced for PBS by WGBH Boston.





For further information contact Linda Miller, WTVP Vice President of Programming, at (309) 495-0591 or linda.miller@wtvp.org



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