A scan­dal that be­came part of pop cul­ture

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD All the Pres­i­dent’s Men Re­vis­ited

WATER­GATE. It’s a sin­gle word that de­scribes a scan­dal that turned a na­tion’s pol­i­tics up­side down, a story that re­de­fined the na­ture of in­ves­tiga­tive re­port­ing and in­spired a gen­er­a­tion of jour­nal­ists, and a movie that de­fied Hol­ly­wood con­ven­tion by mak­ing on­screen heroes of guys in wrin­kled shirts and ties who spent their time hun­kered down be­hind type­writ­ers.

Forty years af­ter the events that even­tu­ally led to the shame­ful res­ig­na­tion of U.S. pres­i­dent Richard Nixon, Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel takes a look back at the scan­dal, the men who broke the story and the men who turned their story into a fea­ture-film thriller. The two-hour doc­u­men­tary All the Pres­i­dent’s Men Re­vis­ited is a bril­liantly crafted ret­ro­spec­tive that weaves the facts of the Water­gate story, as re­called by former Wash­ing- Nar­rated by Robert Red­ford Sun­day at 9 p.m. Dis­cov­ery

out of five ton Post re­porters Bob Wood­ward and Carl Bern­stein, with rem­i­nis­cences of ac­tor/pro­ducer Robert Red­ford’s ef­fort to bring the story to the big screen.

Water­gate be­gan with a botched break-in at the Demo­cratic Na­tional Com­mit­tee’s of­fices in a Washington of­fice com­plex whose name be­came the iden­ti­fier for a scan­dal. Dogged in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Post re­porters Wood­ward and Bern­stein even­tu­ally fol­lowed a dirty-tricks money trail all the way to the Oval Of­fice.

All the Pres­i­dent’s Men Re­vis­ited be­gins at the end, es­sen­tially, with a news clip from Au­gust 1974, in which leg­endary CBS an­chor Wal­ter Cronkite re­ports on Nixon’s planned res­ig­na­tion un­der threat of impeachment af­ter con­gres­sional hear­ings re­vealed the ex­tent of the White House’s crim­i­nal be­hav­iour.

“This was much worse than we thought,” Bern­stein re­calls in an in­ter­view clip. “Nixon was worse than we thought; what he did was worse than we thought.”

And from this glimpse at the in­glo­ri­ous end of the Nixon pres­i­dency, the film jumps back to the be­gin­ning, to the ar­rests of a group of would-be bur­glars at the Water­gate com­plex, and the hastily as­sem­bled meet­ing in the Post news­room on a Sun­day af­ter­noon to dis­cuss how the story should be cov­ered.

What hap­pened next, of course, is the stuff of well-known and end­lessly re-ex­am­ined his­tory, but what Pres­i­dent’s Men Re­vis­ited does un­ex­pect­edly well is blend those de­tails with com­ments from Red­ford (who is both ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and nar­ra­tor on this project) about how Wood­ward and Bern­stein’s book about Water­gate was turned into a fea­ture film.

Dustin Hoff­man, who played Bern­stein to Red­ford’s Wood­ward in the 1976 movie, also fig­ures promi­nently as he and his long-ago co-star rem­i­nisce about the film.

The doc­u­men­tary in­cludes in­ter- views with a wide range of sub­jects, from former Nixon as­so­ci­ates who were di­rectly in­volved (former gen­eral coun­sel John Dean, former deputy at­tor­ney gen­eral Wil­liam Ruck­elshaus) to po­lit­i­cal pun­dits (James Carville, Joe Scar­bor­ough, Rachel Mad­dow) to Joan Felt, the daugh­ter of former FBI sec­ond-in-com­mand Mark Felt, who was even­tu­ally re­vealed to have been Wood­ward’s deep-back­ground source, Deep Throat.

The Daily Show’s host, Jon Ste­wart, also weighs in on Water­gate’s im­pact on the ’60s and ’70s gen­er­a­tion of Amer­i­cans.

“Ev­ery gen­er­a­tion has to lose their vir­gin­ity, and this was just the day when my gen­er­a­tion did,” he ob­serves. “But to think that we’re the only gen­er­a­tion that had that ex­pe­ri­ence is, prob­a­bly, the mis­take that a lot of gen­er­a­tions make.”

There’s an­other in­ter­est­ing story con­cealed in Pres­i­dent’s Men Re­vis­ited, one with a deep-rooted lo­cal con­nec­tion, and it can be found if you fol­low the pro­duc­tion cred­its in­stead of the money.

One of three ex­ec­u­tive pro­duc­ers listed on this film is Laura Michal- chyshyn, who started her TV ca­reer as a pro­gram­mer at WTN, the Win­nipeg­based women’s net­work that even­tu­ally be­came Toronto-based W net­work.

Af­ter serv­ing for seven years as head of pro­gram­ming for Al­liance At­lantis — which in­cluded over­see­ing spe­cialty net Show­case and the in­tro­duc­tion of Cana­dian TV’s ground­break­ing Trailer Park Boys — she re­lo­cated to the U.S. to be­come vice-pres­i­dent of pro­gram­ming and mar­ket­ing for U.S. ca­ble’s Sun­dance Chan­nel.

She later moved to Dis­cov­ery Com­mu­ni­ca­tions to be­come pres­i­dent and GM of two ca­ble net­works, Planet Green and FitTV, and a year ago, Michalchyshyn part­nered with Red­ford to form Sun­dance Pro­duc­tions, im­me­di­ately an­nounc­ing that All the Pres­i­dent’s Men Re­vis­ited would be one of the new com­pany’s first doc­u­men­tary projects.

For any TV-pro­duc­tion com­pany, this would have to be con­sid­ered an ex­cel­lent start.

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