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The Contenders: 16 for '16

The Contenders: 16 for '16

  • Premiered: 
    September 13, 2016
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: PBS
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    Created by OZY Media 
  • Subject Matter: Political
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Plot Synopsis

Hosted by Carlos Watson, THE CONTENDERS: 16 FOR '16 is an eight-part documentary series that reveals the humanity, the twists of fate and the surprising mistakes behind 16 of the most compelling and tumultuous presidential campaigns in modern history. The series revisits the past 50 years of presidential election history to see how previous campaigns are still influencing politics in unexpected ways. Each 60-minute episode features two candidates whose stories appear vastly different on the surface but share common elements that changed the outcomes of campaigns and the course of history. Featured alongside the candidates, their families and their friends are a who's who of campaign managers, observers and Washington, DC, insiders such as Susan Estrich, Karl Rove, Donna Brazile, Karen Hughes and dozens more. The series kicks off with one such unlikely pair: 1970s presidential candidate Shirley Chisholm, the first black American and first female to run for the country's top post, and Senator John McCain, who ran against Barack Obama in 2008. Despite extraordinarily different backgrounds, Chisholm and McCain both ran as plain-spoken outsiders. Chisholm's slogan, "Unbossed and Unbought," was underscored by a grassroots approach that saw her teams collecting cash in the streets, while McCain's image as an outspoken maverick often led him to talk off-the-cuff. The show depicts game-changing moments in both campaigns: Chisholm's betrayal by a friend in the House of Representatives who, at the last moment, decided he would not officially nominate her; and a revealing off-camera show-down between McCain and George W. Bush just prior to a live debate. Pairings for the balance of the series include: former Vermont Governor Howard Dean and conservative insider Pat Buchanan (September 20); Mitt Romney and Michael Dukakis (September 27); Gary Hart and Jesse Jackson (October 4); Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan (October 11); Ross Perot and Ralph Nader (October 18); Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin (October 25); and George W. Bush and Barack Obama (November 1).
On Tuesday, November 1, 2016 at 8pm (check local listings), PBS premiered the finale of THE CONTENDERS: 16 FOR '16. The season ender, "Bush/Obama: The Master Strategists," examines the campaign strategies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, candidates at opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both beat out serious big-ticket contenders with pitch-perfect messaging and careful and calculated campaign strategy.


Production & Distribution

  • Produced by OZY Media