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The Dictator's Playbook Follows the Rise and Fall of Six 20th Century Rulers
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Benito Mussolini | Kim Il Sung
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Documentary Series Evaluates Shared Tactics Used by Six Historical Figures Across Multiple Decades and Continents 


ARLINGTON, VA; DECEMBER 6, 2018 — ​THE DICTATOR’S PLAYBOOK, a new six-part series that chronicles the rise and fall of six of the 20th century’s most infamous rulers, will air Wednesdays, January 9 – February 13, 2019 at 10:00 p.m. ET (check your local listings) on PBS.

Produced by Cream Productions and Twin Cities Public Television, THE DICTATOR’S PLAYBOOK examines the historical, sociological and psychological foundations of 20th-century dictatorships, and provides fresh insight into six brutal men who impacted world history: Kim Il Sung, Saddam Hussein, Benito Mussolini, Manuel Noriega Francisco Franco, and Idi Amin.

“These dictators were all unique in time and place,” said Michael Rosenfeld, Vice President for National Programming at Twin Cities Public Television. “But they engaged in tactics that transcended borders and decades, sometimes even learning from one another. Each hour in the series is a detailed biography, but we highlight the methods these men used to establish their dictatorships, from purges to propaganda to targeted violence. And we explore the impact on the people who lived under these regimes, who often paid a terrible price.”

Through historical context and analysis, the series explores how these dictators functioned, how they influenced each other, and why they succeeded or failed. As different as these men were from each other, they followed a series of essential steps, from seizing power to eliminating enemies — an unwritten “dictator’s playbook.”

“This series takes a deep, historical look at six men whose lives and careers have greatly impacted the 20th century, with far-reaching consequences that are still resonant in conflicts and movements across the globe today,” said Pamela Aguilar, Senior Director, Programming & Development at PBS. “It is a thoughtful examination of how these rulers gained and kept power, and ultimately, what led to their success or failure.”

While focusing specifically on the individual dictators and their countries, each one-hour episode asks a series of questions that allows viewers to understand the politics and psychology of dictatorships, including: What drove their thirst for domination and control? How did they seize and wield power? What forces rose up against them or resisted them in secret? How were they seen and accepted by other countries? How did they finally come to the bitter end?

A summary of each episode in the series follows (check local listings):

Episode 1: Kim Il Sung
(January 9, 2019, 10:00 p.m. ET)
Witness Kim Il Sung’s transformation from guerilla fighter to brutal dictator of North Korea. How did he build the most controlled society on earth and launch a dictatorship that has lasted for three generations?

Episode 2: Saddam Hussein
(January 16, 2019, 10:00 p.m. ET)
Learn how Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq with an iron fist for almost 30 years. To maintain power, he used fear, intimidation, and violence like few other dictators in history, but he made the fatal mistake of believing his regime could take on the world.

Episode 3: Benito Mussolini
(January 23, 2019, 10:00 p.m. ET)
See why Benito Mussolini was considered a pioneer among 20th-century dictators. From undermining judges to indoctrinating children, he forged key tactics for seizing power. He also created fascism, an ideology that would plunge Europe into darkness.

Episode 4: Manuel Noriega
(January 30, 2019, 10:00 p.m. ET)
Watch Manuel Noriega rise through the Panamanian military to become chief of intelligence – and then, a military dictator. He spied for the United States, but in the end, money laundering, drug trafficking, and political crimes led to his downfall.

Episode 5: Francisco Franco
(February 6, 2019, 10:00 p.m. ET)
Learn how Francisco Franco used the tactics of colonial war to win control of Spain. Driven by a deeply conservative vision, he used torture, murder, and incarceration to transform Spanish society.

Episode 6: Idi Amin
(February 13, 2019, 10:00 p.m. ET)
See how Idi Amin used lessons learned in the colonial British Army to build a powerful dictatorship in Uganda. Through a combination of populist charm and brutal violence, he ruled for eight years – until his strategic blunders brought him down.

THE DICTATOR’S PLAYBOOK is a production of Cream Productions in association with Twin Cities Public Television, Inc. and PBS.

About PBS
PBS, with nearly 350 member stations, offers all Americans the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and digital content. Each month, PBS reaches over 90 million people through television and 30 million people online, inviting them to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; to hear diverse viewpoints; and to take front row seats to world-class drama and performances. PBS’ broad array of programs has been consistently honored by the industry’s most coveted award competitions. Teachers of children from pre-K through 12th grade turn to PBS for digital content and services that help bring classroom lessons to life. Decades of research confirms that PBS’ premier children’s media service, PBS KIDS, helps children build critical literacy, math and social-emotional skills, enabling them to find success in school and life. Delivered through member stations, PBS KIDS offers high-quality educational content on TV – including a 24/7 channel, online at, via an array of mobile apps and in communities across America. More information about PBS is available at, one of the leading dot-org websites on the internet, or by following PBS on TwitterFacebook or through our apps for mobile and connected devices. Specific program information and updates for press are available at or by following PBS Pressroom on Twitter.

About Twin Cities Public Television
Twin Cities PBS, the PBS affiliate for Minneapolis/St. Paul, is a prominent content producer for the national public television system. TPT’s major national documentaries include the Emmy Award-winning The Forgetting: APortrait of Alzheimer’s, Peabody Award recipient Depression: Out of the Shadows, and 2012 official Sundance Film Festival selection Slavery by Another Name. Other recent projects include Going to War and the groundbreaking children’s program SciGirls. TPT co-produced the classic feature documentary Hoop Dreams, a Peabody and Sundance Film Festival winner. More information at



Atiya Frederick, PBS, 703-739-5047;
Joe DePlasco, DKC, 212-981-5125;

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