It is difficult to believe now but the advent of television was once believed as a huge step forward for the intellectual good of a country. This was particularly the case in America. In 1968 two heavyweight intellectuals were hired by the struggling ABC network to front their coverage of the Republican and Democratic conventions. Gore Vidal was a famous liberal political commentator author and film-maker whilst William F. Buckley was an outspoken and erudite conservative author and commentator. They hated each other.
Taking place shortly after Bobby Kennedy’s deaths, the debates came at an interesting ideological times in American politics. The Republicans had a clash of personality between Nixon and Regan whilst the Democrats were in disarray. Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville’s documentary, Best of Enemies, is a behind-the-scenes account of the debates, focussing on Vidal and Buckley. Using archive footage, interviews and their writings (voiced by John Lithgow and Kelsey Grammer), the duo show a turning point in media history (and the dawn of punditry).
Whilst today the masses rely on the likes of Russell Brand for their ‘intellectual’ stimulus, Best of Enemies harks back to a day time when intelligence and erudition wasn’t compressed into political sound bites and spin. It also marked the end of an era where long debates was seen in the mainstream media. Their battles (and these debates were very personal) are lively, humorous and occasionally cross the line, with many of their comments having myriad connotations and meanings. Best of Enemies is a documentary full of spark and intelligence.
Best of Enemies is released on DVD by Dogwoof on Monday.