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It only takes an hour. Eighteen months distilled to a one-hour narrative. It won't tell you why it happened. Not outright, anyway. It will remind you what happened step by step by step.

Frontline: Trump's Road to the White House (Tuesday, PBS, 10 p.m.) tells you such things as this: "The Access Hollywood tape was a big surge, but after it ran 400 times on TV, it fell off. The Podesta e-mails kept getting dribbled out, news cycle after news cycle. It was forever." That comes from the mouth of an insider on the Trump campaign. This Frontline investigation of how Donald Trump "defied expectations to win the presidency" has the bonus of numerous interviews with key campaign staff working for Trump and for Hillary Clinton's campaign.

You might remember that the the Access Hollywood tape was the one that included Trump's boast about "grab her by the pussy."

It seemed devastating at that time; a ruination.

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If there is a twist in the narrative offered in this one-hour distillation, the sort of twist you get in a movie whereby a heroic figure has to overcome an obstacle, it's right there in the revelations of the Access Hollywood tape.

It was overcome by a movie-like stroke of luck – the leak of the Podesta e-mails after the Democratic National Committee had been hacked.

And then, of course, the announcement that the FBI was looking into Clinton's e-mails, again.

The program doesn't offer a judgment on these twists. It simply tells the story and allows the main players to comment and explain. It starts at the start, with the beginning of Trump's campaign.

Corey Lewandowski tells Frontline: "When Donald Trump asked me to be his campaign manager in January, 2015, he asked me what the odds were of winning the Republican nomination. I said: '5 per cent.' He said: '10.' I said: 'Let's settle at 7 1/2 per cent.'"

Yep, it was a long shot. The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza says in the program: "You could almost hear people around town laughing at the idea that this person was going to be a credible threat. He seemed like a cartoon character."

We all remember that.

What the program informs us is that inside the campaign there was a real fear that, early on, it was going nowhere.

Then their polls began to tell them that people liked Trump being aggressive and obnoxious in the Republican debates. They didn't want politeness or bromides. They liked him being dismissive of others and never backing down from what he said, no matter how provocative it was.

Sean Spicer, now the White House Press Secretary, says: "He defied every political rule that existed."

Roger Stone, a major backroom figure on Trump's campaign asserts that Trump's often inarticulate remarks worked for him – "He just spoke the language of the American people. People voted for Trump as he is."

What emerges, too, is that "as he is" definitely means never backing down.

The program has Washington Post reporter Robert Costa telling how he contacted Trump directly to ask if he'd quit the race because of the Access Hollywood tape.

Trump's response was, "Costa, I've lived life. I've seen so much in my business and personal life. This is nothing. I've survived everything else. I'll survive this. There's no chance I'll quit. Not one chance. I'm in this to the end."

On the other side, Clinton campaign official Robby Mook recalls hearing about the FBI's new investigation into those e-mails: "I just remember this feeling in the pit of my stomach. That feeling that I just got smacked by a two-by-four, and it came out of nowhere."

As for what happens now that Trump is in power, Republican pollster Frank Luntz declares: "The only thing that is predictable is the unpredictability of Washington from this point forward. There is no pivot, there is no normal. So buckle your seat belts and sit back, cause it's going to be a wild ride."

The program – made by Michael Kirk, the director, writer and producer of PBS's recent Divided States of America and The Choice – is bluntly educational. Spare, non-judgmental and sticking with insider analysis, it shocks a bit.

Even though we all know what happened, it's a one-hour reminder that will still leave you agog.

Residents of Putnam County, Ohio voted 79% in favour of Donald Trump. The Globe and Mail spent Inauguration Day with them as they celebrated Trump's swearing in.

The Globe and Mail