In 1968, ABC News, which then was third in the country behind CBS and NBC attempted to boost their ratings by hosting a series of nationally televised debates between novelist and liberal, Gore Vidal and conservative, William F. Buckley. Their language was curt and coarse, but the world was not prepared for the verbal jousting that would invade their television screens.
Written and directed by Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville, the documentary Best of Enemies explores the 10 televised debates between Buckley and Vidal during the Republican National Convention in Miami Beach and the Democratic Convention in Chicago. Neither gentlemen liked the other, but they respected each other.
Most of the documentary focuses on the debates themselves, with interviews with each of their respective biographers and news chiefs of the day. John Lithgow and Kelsey Grammer provide voice over narrative for Vidal and Buckley, respectively. And, it’s a hoot.
Television news and politics in general were never the same after these debates. Best of Enemies is highly recommended.