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Best of Enemies

Fascinating, informative and strangely echoing the current political climate in the USA, the 2015 documentary BEST OF ENEMIES chronicles a pivotal moment in television news.

It's 1968, ABC News is a very distant third in the ratings and they have decided to only do 90 minutes of prime time coverage of the Republican and Democratic conventions.

At the time, CBS and NBC covered the conventions gavel to gavel and ABC's approach was laughable to their competition.

ABC really breaks the mold when they schedule 10 debates as part of their nightly coverage.

Weighing in were uber-conservative William F. Buckley and outspoken liberal author Gore Vidal.

The two men detested each other, often ripping each others opinions to shreds in print. They ooze hate for the others position.

Its terrific to watch the original ABC coverage, much of these debates themselves and learn how the media reacted.

The public loved them, with ABC's ratings skyrocketing and coverage of the debates never the same, and its easy to see why.

There is no middle ground for Buckley or Vidal. They spend as much time verbally skewering the others personal attributes as they do the issues, making for lively TV.

It's easy to see where Dan Aykroyd got his famous "Point/Counterpoint" line to Jane Curtin, "Jane, you ignorant slut" (shown here and still hilariously delivered by Aykroyd & Curtin).

At times, you feel like there is a mutual respect for each others intelligence lurking just below the surface, but its soon repressed with another nuclear verbal assault.

Watching the film now and relating the deep divide between the parties and the country in 1968 that created a violent convention atmosphere to the events just last night at the Trump rally in Chicago, I get the creeping feeling that 48 years after these events, the country hasn't evolved as much as we would like to pretend.

Listen to the dialogue between Buckley and Vidal and transplant that chatter to this week and its astonishing and sad how relevant the social issues are today.

It's also fascinating to watch how the impact of Vidal & Buckley's most famous, profane and explosive moment in the debates changed both men's lives forever.

One of them lives in the shadow of that ten seconds, struggling to understand why those words were his primal fallback, while the other wallows in his hatred for the other, literally penning a welcome letter from hell when his opponent eventually dies.

Smart, entertaining and riveting, BEST OF ENEMIES gets an A, a great documentary that captures an important political moment that seems all too familiar today.

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