As long as this deluxe tv mini-series, based on the Watergate Scandal roman-à-clef by leading participant John Ehrlichman, sticks close to the Oval Office, it’s good juicy fun. But interest wanes exponentially the further we move off the White House campus. Jason Robards & Robert Vaughn partner for a great Strindbergian Dance of Death as faux Pres Nixon & Chief-of-Staff H. R. Haldeman, creating scary creeps of their own rather than the expected impersonations. But the general acting level of the younger crowd drops into junior league soap opera, especially on the distaff romantic scenes. Dreary stuff. Only Tony Bill, in the presumed John Dean spot (good guy/turncoat), approaches three-dimensionality.* Actually, the most appalling thing in here may be the flamboyantly startling late ‘70s costumes & interior design. There's none of the overly self-conscious note seen in recent attempts to recreate the flared pants, elongated collars, wide lapels, dewy lip gloss and mauve walls. Here, it’s all taken-for-granted and right up to date. Especially noteworthy on the men, whose slouch and lack of muscularity shine out from the tips of their shoes to teeth dulled by cigarette smoke. Or maybe it was just the film stock. The long show wraps just as conspiracy starts to fray, but the ratings didn’t justify a sequel.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Not a bad Watergate Primer for history-phobic teens. Just be sure to follow up with something documentarian on the subject.
LINK: *John Dean, that’s the real John Dean, just edited the last of the secretly recorded Nixon tapes for publication, showing our late Prez in all his tormented ghastliness. (All that forced bonhomie and trash talk on minorities as Nixon tries so hard to be one-of-the-boys.) Follow the link below for a recent interview from Dean on The Colbert Report: http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/ecplh0/john-w--dean