As a fan of American history, I have enjoyed watching the programming on the PBS series American Experience since it first started in 1988. The research for these shows is amazing, and I like the fact that the research is displayed on their website, as well.
On January 10, 2012, American Experience premiered Billy the Kid to kick off their Wild West series. The show is now available for viewing on their website here.
Honestly, considering all of the preliminary material available on the website and the detailed history provided during the program, I was impressed by the entire package. I did not feel the show glorified a bad guy, I do not believe it slandered a Western hero. I believe it provided an honest glimpse into the life of an angry young man who felt trapped by his circumstances, from his early days living with his mother in New York slums to the only existing photograph of Billy the Kid, a tintype that recently sold in Colorado for $2.3 million, which is discussed in an earlier post on this blog.
The show also included interviews with historians and researchers/writers, as well as some amazing footage of Lincoln County, New Mexico in the heart of the Lincoln National Forest.
Among the many resources available on American Experience, the website provides a Teacher's Guide to Billy the Kid, which suggests using the material as a jump off point to discuss a variety of topics, including Westward expansion and the American frontier. The website also has a photo gallery titled The Golden Age of the American Cowboy; a list of related books and websites; a timeline of events in the life of Billy the Kid; and an essay on "The Pardoning of Billy the Kid."
I highly recommend this show for its entertainment value and as an educational tool.