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 TelevisionTHE 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? 

Statues Kim and son successor Kim Jung Il
(Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images | AP Images)

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.

Saddam Hussein shooting a rifle during the Iran-Iraq war 1982
(Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images | AP Images)

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.

Strongman dictator Mussolini giving a speech with fist in the air
(Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images | AP Images)

 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, military dictator. He spied for the United States, but in the end, money laundering, drug trafficking and political crimes led to his downfall. 

Manuel Noriega with supports in Panama
(Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images | AP Images)

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.

Portrait for Spains dictator from 1939-1975 Francisco Franco
(Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images | AP Images)

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.

Idi Amin waving at crowds Mar 21 1973
(Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images | AP Images)

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