What happened to Titanic? Nonfiction TV attempts to answer that question

One hundred years ago tonight, Titanic hit an iceberg and then, a few hours later, early on April 15, 1912, sank south of Newfoundland. The centennial is being commemorated by a variety of things, from the re-release of James Cameron’s movie in 3D to a cruise with Titanic passengers’ family members aboard, retracing the same route and just asking for trouble, to a fictional ABC miniseries written by the creator of Downton Abbey. And some impossibly ignorant people are just now discovering Titanic was real.

Nonfiction television has also been addressing the sinking, airing and rebroadasting new specials that each attempt to tell the definitive story about what happened over those few hours.

National Geographic Channel is airing Titanic: The Final Word With James Cameron, on which the filmmaker investigates the sinking and addresses errors he made in depicting the ship’s sinking. That results in, among other things, this recreation of the sinking. NatGeo is also broadcasing Save the Titanic With Bob Ballard, which repeats tonight at 9 p.m. ET, on which Ballard, who discovered its wreckage, examines how to preserve its remains, which nature and people are ruining. Those shows re-air as part of a marathon of Titanic-related shows that starts at 10 a.m. Sunday.

Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET, the History Channel airs Titanic at 100: Mystery Solved, on which documents what the network says is “the most thorough and exhaustive study of the wreck ever made” that “yielded unprecedented new discoveries and the first comprehensive map of Titanic’s watery grave.”

The Smithsonian Channel airs Titanic’s Final Mystery (at 2 a.m. ET Sunday morning, and again at 11 a.m., 8 p.m., and 11 p.m.), on which historian Tim Maltin discovers “evidence of a rare natural phenomenon” that proves “both the Titanic and the Californian were deceived by mirages,” causing them to not see that fateful iceberg.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.