Watergate (BBC, 1994)

nixon

I’ve recently been rewatching Watergate, the five part BBC2 documentary series from 1994.  One of the most remarkable things about the programme was the way that – Nixon excepted – virtually every living participant was not only willing to talk on camera, but did so extremely candidly.  It was written and narrated by Fred Emery, who also penned a tie-in book which is an excellent print summation of this most fascinating of political stories.

Emery’s skill is in letting the participants speak for themselves.  What emerges from their oral history is that the Watergate affair was bungled right from the start – this was no controlled mission, rather it was a collection of loose cannons ricocheting off each other. And loosest of all must be G. Gordon Liddy, the former FBI agent who was the chief architect of the Watergate break in.  Liddy is a mesmerising interviewee, not least for the moment when he recalled that he would have been quite happy to murder Jack Anderson, a Washington reporter who was something of a thorn in the side of the Nixon administration, had the order been given.  Just one of a number of jaw dropping revelations from Liddy, easily the most entertaining interviewee.

Although Richard Nixon, who coincidentally died just before the programme was broadcast, didn’t take part, he’s still very much present – thanks not only to the David Frost interviews but also via the infamous White House tapes which would eventually lead to his downfall.

Watergate is a quality documentary that’s well worth four hours of your time.

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