Washington: Behind Closed Doors
- TV Mini Series
- 12h 30min
The story of a power-hungry U.S. President, and the men, with whom he surrounds himself, in order to keep his hold on power. Based on John Ehrlichman's book about the Nixon administration.The story of a power-hungry U.S. President, and the men, with whom he surrounds himself, in order to keep his hold on power. Based on John Ehrlichman's book about the Nixon administration.The story of a power-hungry U.S. President, and the men, with whom he surrounds himself, in order to keep his hold on power. Based on John Ehrlichman's book about the Nixon administration.
I had actually read Erlichman's novel ("The Company") and found it a good tight little thriller, obviously using the JFK/LBJ/Nixon Presidencies as his template to tell a fictional tale.
I then saw this TV miniseries in 1977 when I was working in New York, and again back in England a year later when it was shown over here. BBC then showed it again in 1994 when I had the good sense to videotape it (good old VHS), a tape I have kept and pull out every five years or so to watch again. And I love it every time.
The brilliant stroke the writers of the show pulled was to take the book and expand it, to make a full-on comedy drama of the Nixon White House.
And the casting and the story lines are astonishingly entertaining.
Cliff Robertson (the notional hero) is OK, but he has the boring part and has to introduce "The Macguffin", which in this story is the fate of "The Primula Report".
The real fun is the political shenanigans of Senator/President Monckton (Nixon) and his appalling crew.
There are so many good performances (especially Jason Robards as Monckton, but also Andy Griffiths, John Houseman, Harold Gould etc)), but the two "tours des force" are Robert Vaughn as Flaherty and, above all, Nicholas Pryor as Hank Ferris. And the scenes between the two of them are priceless; ("Loyalty Hank, loyalty").
Pryor is amazing. Playing this frightened, ambitious, corrupt little man; the hoops he puts himself through are both hilarious and unutterably painful. The sequence where he inadvertently reveals the levels of corruption going on at The Whitehouse and is dragged over to Flaherty's office thinking he is going to be exposed is, quite simply a comic masterpiece.
And I think this is the point where I diverge from the other, very laudatory, posts on this page.
Those that remember it and have seen it, love it, but their comments are all too serious. In large part this show is a comedy. Not a comedy of jokes and "bits", but a comedy of manner, of wit. The sheer appalling behaviour of the main characters is breathtaking, but you can't help rooting for them. They are all going to get their comeuppance, but it's so much fun watching them do it.
This is a pizza and coke show, par excellence. In fact it's a soap opera, but none the worse for that. The filming technique is very dated; there are so many zoom shots and "dah dah dah" moments, it sometimes feels like an episode of Dallas, but that all adds to the fun.
In short I defy anyone who starts watching it not to be totally hooked.
I only wish they had made a sequel where we could have seen them all crash and burn (with perhaps, against all the odds, Hank actually surviving!!).
- Jan 12, 2008