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Source:  Sup Doc

On episode 65 of the Sup Doc podcast, hosts Paco Romane and George Chen sit down with comedian Allen Strickland Williams to discuss and dissect “Best of Enemies.”

The documentary explores the relationship between two colossal minds and ideological opposites, William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal.  Their series of riveting, nationally televised debates ushered in a new era of public discourse and pundit TV.

In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever.  That year, gunmen assassinated both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr.  The Democratic convention in Chicago flared up with protests and violence.  Overseas, the Vietnam War raged on, and the streets at home roiled with race riots.

With this tense political climate as a backdrop, “Best of Enemies” captures the legendary televised debates between the ideological giants.

Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired Vidal and Buckley to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

Buckley, who founded National Review magazine in 1955, was a leading light of the new conservative movement.  Gore Vidal, a lifelong Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, was a leftist, taboo-smashing novelist and polemicist.  Both believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America.

Like two heavyweight boxers in the ring, the two pummeled each other with exchanges that devolved into personal attacks. These live and unscripted quarrels riveted viewers, and the television industry took notice.

“Best of Enemies” reveals the moment that TV’s political ambition shifted from narrative to spectacle, forever altering the way the media — and Americans — talked about politics.

Listen to the the episode on iTunes and Sup Doc.

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