Show name: The White House Plumbers
Release date: 2023
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Justin Theroux, Lena Headey, Judy Greer
Created by: Alex Gregory, Peter Huyck
Length: Five episodes of one hour
The White House Plumbers is about the run up to the Watergate burglary, it’s bungled execution and the fallout from it.
Unlike a lot of previous drama on the subject, it isn’t really about Richard Nixon or the cover up.
It’s about the actual burglars and those in the Republican Party who made the arrangements at the time.
The two central players are E Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux).
Both were hilarious.
Their longsuffering wives are played by Lena Headey and Judy Greer. I’ve never seen Lena Headey do comedy, and after Cersei Lannister struggle to think her in a comic role, but she acquitted herself well. Judy Greer is a more established comic voice, and her partnering with Justin Theroux was very funny indeed.
Hunt and Liddy are introduced to each other and asked to obtain copies of the psychiatric reports of a political rival.
They do this by adopting intentionally rubbishy disguises and blagging their way into the psychiatrist’s office. This involves Hunt charming the cleaning lady in fluent Spanish.
Their reconnaissance is sufficiently successful for them to be able to send in the main team, all of whom are incompetent.
When their break in is interrupted they disguise it as the work of drug addicts. Although they get away with it, Attorney General John Mitchell (John Carroll Lynch) isn’t impressed and Hunt and Liddy are cut loose.
I couldn’t get over Twisty the Clown from AHS as Attorney General of the US.
They re-ingratiate themselves when Mitchell is fingered in a Senate investigation into bribes paid to the Republican Party. This involves witness tampering when they spirit away Dita Beard (Kathleen Turner) to avoid her giving testimony to the committee.
From then on, Project Gemstone is a go: at least the part of it that involves breaking into the Watergate complex to bug the DNC.
From dodgy hair and inexplicable couture that reminded me throughout why I just loved the Seventies, to a persistent sense of irresponsibility as Hunt and Liddy bromance their way through black ops, I couldn’t stop laughing.
Theroux and Harrelson have genuine comic ability, and the supporting cast was brilliant too.
The downfall of Liddy and Hunt is well documented, but usually in a more serious strain. The lack of professionalism and even basic ability to get simple elements of their job right means that it was probably only ever a matter of time before the whole thing came crashing down, and of course the subsequent cover up took down a US president.
We often need distance from events to be able to laugh at them and the passage of fifty years plus the arrival of another US president facing impeachment has given us the perspective to enjoy the Watergate break ins as comedy as well as serious drama.
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