Looking at how the war in Vietnam destroyed Johnson's presidency, this first programme features interviews with Johnson's family and close associates, revealing his doubts about plunging America into a war. Witnesses speak of a conspiracy by the Nixon presidential campaign to sabotage Johnson's attempt to end the war, with the aim of securing Nixon's succession to the presidency.
Archive film charts the origins and decline of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programme, the president's attempt to bring the US into the 20th century. Charles Wheeler traces a member of a family featured in a BBC film about white poverty in Kentucky in the sixties. Janet, now over 40 and a single mother-of-two, reveals how Lyndon Johnson 's domestic programmes transformed her family's life.
President Johnson's Voting Rights Act of was the most far-reaching legislation of his term of office. But blacks in the ghettos saw few improvements in their quality of life, leading to riots, racial tensions, a white backlash and the murder in 1968 of Dr Martin Luther King. Wheeler examines how those events have shaped politics today and looks at Louis Farrakhan, the radical leader of the Nation of Islam.
America's prison population is growing and, as a result of Ronald Reagan's drug offensive, the average sentence for drug-related crimes is now longer than the penalty for manslaughter, armed assault and rape. With 60 percent of federal prison inmates convicted for non-violent narcotic crimes, has the system got the balance right?
Charles Wheeler presents the last of five examinations of American society. Once derided as a minor movie actor with unrealistic political ambitions, Ronald Reagan has turned out to be one of the most lastingly influential US presidents in modern history. Reagan was more communicator than political activist but his legacy lives on, especially in the House of Representatives, controlled by the New Right. President Bill Clinton's hopes of election to a second term are threatened by such opposition.