In the run-up to the U.S. presidential election in 1968, which would see Richard Nixon becoming president, ABC TV invited two leading thinkers to discuss the state of the nation. In the resulting series of spectacular live broadcasts, the ultraconservative journalist William F. Buckley and the progressive author Gore Vidal hurl increasingly violent verbal abuse at one another – on personal as well as political issues. What starts off as an exemplary display of the art of classical intellectual debate spirals into a demoralizing record of the first American example of on-air political mudslinging. Although Buckley and Vidal thoroughly despise one another, they do have common concerns when it comes to the state of their nation. They initially express their loathing for each other’s opinions through eloquent taunts and repartee, but by the end this highbrow brawl between two talented debaters has degenerated into an exchange of vulgarities. The color archive footage is accompanied by voice-overs of passages from the memoirs of the two intellectual giants, while others who were there reflect on this sensational political debate that marked the beginning of a new era in TV.
Morgan Neville, Robert Gordon
Robert Gordon for Tremolo Productions, Morgan Neville for Tremolo Productions
Julie Goldman for Motto Pictures, Clif Philips
David Leonard, Graham Willoughby, Mark Schwartzbard
Aaron Wickenden, Eileen Meyer