'Cold Case JFK' review: Minds won't change

PBS/NOVA "Cold Case JFK" Premieres Wednesday, November 13,

PBS/NOVA "Cold Case JFK" Premieres Wednesday, November 13, 2013, 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET. Pictured: NOVA President and Mrs Kennedy arrive Dallas. (Nov. 22, 1963) (Credit: Photo by Cecil Stoughton, White House, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.)

THE DOCUMENTARY "Cold Case JFK" on "Nova"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday at 9 p.m. on WNET/13

WHAT IT'S ABOUT The New Mexico-based father-son team of Lucien and Michael Haag -- also leading experts in firearms and ballistics -- re-create the Nov. 22, 1963, shooting of President John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. With the help of ballistics tests and high-tech forensics tools, the broadcast establishes that a bullet of the type used by Lee Harvey Oswald's Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 mm rifle could have gone through both JFK and Texas Gov. John Connally. In addition, "Cold Case" claims that a pattern of radiating fractures in JFK's skull indicate the bullet that killed him was fired from above -- or most likely the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository.

MY SAY Just as a Geiger counter starts to click furiously when it gets nearer the source of radioactivity, we should all start to notice a furious clicking sound -- related to conspiracy theories -- as we get closer to Nov. 22. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong with the JFK autopsy -- widely known, and reported again here -- while a growing body of evidence has established that the Warren Commission did some serious botching of its own, or, in the words of Philip Shenon's recent book "A Cruel and Shocking Act," the investigation "was flawed from the start." Hence, the ground for conspiracy theorizing is as fertile as ever.

That's why "Cold Case" -- as gruesome or brutal as anything you'd see on "CSI" -- is almost a morbid kind of comfort food. There's no wild-eyed theorizing here, or crazed claims of a squad of gunmen crouching on the grassy knoll. All it says, in effect is, "Here's what we did, and here's what we found out. You draw your own conclusions." Lucien Haag says of a forensic investigation: "If you can rule out the impossible, that which remains, however seemingly improbable, is the truth."

Neither he nor "Nova" make a claim on the "truth" here, but they do make a plausible case for what most likely happened: A single Carcano bullet struck both the president and governor while the third shot was fired from above and behind JFK, and not from the grassy knoll. If you're a hardened JFK conspiracist -- and you are certainly not alone -- there's little chance this "Nova" will change your mind, but it's so calm, reasoned and expertly argued that you might just be pleasantly surprised.

BOTTOM LINE Fascinating, but not for the faint of heart.

GRADE A

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