Directed by documentary vets Robert Gordon (Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story) and Morgan Neville (the Academy Award–winning 20 Feet from Stardom), the riveting Best of Enemies delves into the prehistory of political punditry with its thrilling chronicle of the 1968 televised debates between provocative novelist, intellectual and staunch leftist Gore Vidal and conservative figurehead William F. Buckley, Jr.
Commissioned by ABC for their coverage of the 1968 Democratic and Republican conventions, the series of nightly debates between these ideological foes proved to be an unexpected ratings smash. Selected by the network at least partially because of their well-known antipathy towards each other, Buckley and Vidal sought not just to debate policies and ideas but to destroy the other publicly. The charged atmosphere soon descended into outrageous outbursts and venomous personal attacks: at one point Buckley notoriously called Vidal a “queer” and threatened to fight him, all of it broadcast live into homes across the United States.
Around the still-startling archival footage of the original debates, directors Gordon and Neville provide context through interviews with figures such as Christopher Hitchens, Noam Chomsky and Dick Cavett, testimony from personal friends of Vidal and Buckley, and excerpts from the writings of both men read by Kelsey Grammer (as Buckley) and John Lithgow (as Vidal). Exploring the aftermath of this television watershed and the lasting impact it has had on political discourse as we know it today, Best of Enemies offers high intellectual drama that will leave viewers thoroughly entertained, no matter their political leanings.