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An original program that presents factual, or supposedly factual, information. Often an hour long, sometimes are part of a series or Miniseries. Many Cooking Show, Home Improvement and News Magazine specials fall in this category.

The Discovery and History channels at one time specialized in this form, as did A&E before that same company created History. PBS has a tradition with this format as well.

Note that using this format does not make the content of the program necessarily "factual".

Examples of TV Documentary include:


Series of Unrelated Subjects:

  • Our America with Lisa Ling - OWN
  • Nova - PBS
  • Scientific American Frontiers - PBS
  • True Life - MTV

Thematically Consistent Subjects:

  • Wild West Tech - History Channel
  • Tales of the Gun - History Channel
  • Blood Diamonds (Not to be confused with the similarly named Blood Diamond.)

Extended Single Subject Miniseries:

  • Ken Burns's The Civil War - PBS
  • Ken Burns's Baseball - PBS
  • Ken Burns's The National Parks: America's Best Idea - PBS
  • Ken Burns's Jazz - PBS
  • Victory At Sea by Henry Solomon

Back in the "Golden Age" of TV news, CBS used to do special documentaries called CBS Reports:

  • Harvest of Shame is a 1960 made for television documentary presented by broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow. It shows the plight of American migrant agricultural workers. Allegedly, the Coca-Cola Company (which owned agricultural interests) refused to advertise on CBS for many years after it aired. For this reason, among others, the TV documentary rarely exists anymore, and when it does, is almost always a uncontroversial (at least to advertisers) subject.
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