Monday, June 18, 2012

Behind Washington: Behind Closed Doors

Now available from Acorn Media is the award winning miniseries, Washington: Behind Closed Doors. This six part story, spread across three discs, is the fictional tale of President Richard Monckton (Jason Robards, The Civil War, Magnolia), a paranoid and arrogant man, secretly plotting against many. Set mainly in the 1970s, Monckton comes under the influence of Frank Flaherty (Robert Vaughn, Coronation Street, Hustle), who isolates the president from his staff, and manipulates him to serve his purposes. All this, while the administration balances a Southeast Asian war and antiwar protests at home.

Wait, you say. This doesn't sound fictional? It seems to be the story of President Richard Nixon, the man who divided a country with his machinations, and engaged in covert games with those around him? That might just be because Washington: Behind Closed Doors is based on a novel by a former Nixon adviser, intended to somewhat tell a true story.

Even for those of us who didn't live through the Nixon era, this is a tale worth paying attention to. In an era where government is royally screwed up, Washington: Behind Closed Doors will spark the cynical side of viewers, imagining the worst of the man who run our country. This isn't any better or worse than the way things currently are, but shows another ineffective government at another point in history. It also reminds us that history can repeat itself, and power corrupts.

Washington: Behind Closed Doors is filled with fantastic performances. Besides Vaughn and Robards, there's Cliff Robertson (Spider-Man) as CIA director Bill Martin, who would like Monckton's ear, but instead finds a president intent on settling vendettas, rather than making America the country it should be. Andy Griffith does his take on Lyndon B. Johnson, who is almost as villainous as Monckton, in an entirely different way.

The actors that get the short end of the shaft in this miniseries are the women. Robbed of any juicy parts, or even a coherent love story, Stefanie Powers (Doctors, Hart to Hart) and Lois Nettleton (In the Heat of the Night) do the best that they can with flimsy material. They could probably hold their own against the boys, if given the chance. Sadly, they are not.

But romance aside, which isn't really needed in a piece like this, anyway, Washington: Behind Closed Doors is a stellar story of intrigue, betrayal, and deception. A highly entertaining political thriller, this will bring older viewers back to an important moment in this nation's history, and entice those who aren't so familiar to learn more.

Will America ever learn its lesson? Only time will tell. But this show will definitely spark some musings and introspection. For that reason, hopefully many of those involved in the current bickering will check it out and reconsider what they are doing with their lives.

In case you happen to be one of those who isn't well versed in the time period, an eight page booklet is included in this DVD set. It outlines reality, from Indochina conflict, to the peace movement in the U.S., to the Watergate scandal. It's sort of a cliff notes version of history, and one that provides appropriate context.

The only other bonus feature included is a set of brief biographies on a number of political figures of the time. These are nice, but one wishes there was more. Where are the interviews and commentary from the producers and stars, discussing how it felt to be part of such an important, renowned series? Ah, well. Maybe in the next edition.

At around 600 minutes in length, and given the high quality of the program and plot, there is plenty to recommend about this DVD set. Check out Washington: Behind Closed Doors, on sale now.

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