In 1968, ABC was desperate for ratings. The network was consistently beaten out by the others and was looking for a unique twist that they could add. With coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions coming up, they decided to hire Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr. to argue the issues life on television. The two men shared an intense distaste of each other, and within moments of the first show, they had abandoned the issues and began attacking each other. It was a ratings hit, and the beginning of a brand of television that we’re all too familiar with now.
Although reality television is something that has become increasingly popular over the last few decades, it’s obvious that the reasons for that have been around much longer. Best of Enemies takes viewers to the very start of that wave of TV, as watching Vidal and Buckley Jr. seems quite similar to any number of reality TV programs. The only real difference is the fact that Vidal and Buckley Jr. at least began at an intelligent starting point.
Best of Enemies follows these live discussion while exploring the background of each participant, and their views on each other. What really should have been a peaceful and intellectual conversation quickly turns into name calling, insults, and speculation. Of course the public ate it up. While it’s fun to watch two intellectuals berate each other, it’s also fascinating to see the divide between the two parties on matters of race, sexuality, and religion.