TV cameras zoomed in on corporate executives squirming, a top federal regulator promising answers and U.S. lawmakers venting anger.

All of this and more unfolded during a series of nationally broadcast dramas on Tuesday as two congressional panels held hearings on the spreading BP oil spill, and a third probed last week’s mysterious collapse on Wall Street.

Such high-profile investigative proceedings have been a regular feature on Capitol Hill for years.

They’ve included examining: the Ku Klux Klan after the Civil War; the 1912 sinking of the Titanic; the start of The Great Depression and organized crime in the early 1950s.

“The quicker a congressional committee can get on the front pages of newspapers the happier and more content they are,” said Stephen Hess, a congressional scholar at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think-tank.