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‘The White House: Behind Closed Doors,' premiering Wednesday on History

Hal Boedeker
The Orlando Sentinel (MCT)

The White House is an office, a national monument and a unique home, a terrific new special reminds us.

The program, "The White House: Behind Closed Doors," is several things as well: a marvelous tour, a fine history lesson and a farewell by George and Laura Bush.

"It's a fabulous place," President Bush says of his home the past eight years.

The 90-minute special, premiering at 9 p.m. EST Wednesday on History, transcends politics to explain the mansion's hold on the popular imagination. The program salutes proud staffers who strive to make the home comfortable while serving history.

The best reason to watch? The exquisitely photographed tour of the rooms, even those on the seldom-seen private floor. The Red, Green and Blue rooms look startlingly vivid. The lovingly restored Lincoln Bedroom contains a copy of the Gettysburg Address.

The program takes you behind the scenes as the staff prepares for a state dinner. Cooks scurry in the kitchen and the cramped pastry shop.

The first lady displays a deep affection for the home and a precise knowledge of its contents. She has an admiring audience in brothers Leigh and Leslie Keno of PBS' "Antiques Roadshow."

The White House became the official name in 1901, supplanting the Executive Mansion. The wide-ranging history lesson shares many personal details.

The program takes up Caroline Kennedy's pony, William Howard Taft's huge tub and Dolley Madison's saving George Washington's portrait from Britain's wartime burning of the house.

Stories abound about Abraham Lincoln's ghost; legend has it that Winston Churchill saw the apparition and shared a conversation. After Margaret Truman's piano leg fell through a floor, worried papa Harry Truman pushed for a major renovation.

Jackie Kennedy brought the White House pertinent to millions with a landmark television tour in 1962. In a new era, Laura Bush does a splendid job in this inspiring special.

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