White House Plumbers
The Watergate break-in is one of the most notorious events in American history. It’s a tale that’s been portrayed on both the big and small screen numerous times over the decades, with the likes of All The President’s Men, The Final Days, and Nixon being just some of the more noteworthy standouts. The latest recounting of the massive scandal comes in the form of White House Plumbers, a five-part miniseries helmed by Veep writer David Mandell, which centres on the two men responsible for orchestrating the operation. Those were former CIA agent E Howard Hunt (Woody Harrelson) and G Gordon Liddy (Justin Theroux).
Jokingly calling themselves “plumbers” (because they fix leaks), it’s their job to ensure that Richard Nixon is re-elected by any means necessary. The trouble is, though, that they’re insanely incompetent. The pair’s espionage misadventures play out like a political satire in the same vein as The Death of Stalin or The Thick of It. This is where Mandell’s comedic skills shine through as the series playfully pokes fun at the ridiculousness of the situation. Each episode, for example, ends in a disclaimer proclaiming that, while some details have been altered for dramatic purposes, one especially bonkers fact is completely true. It’s stranger-fiction storytelling at its finest and most bizarre.
Even within an impressive ensemble cast, which includes the likes of Kathleen Turner, Judy Greer, and Lena Headey, Harrelson and Theroux are the unequivocal stars of the show. Portrayed as an unlikely comedy double act, the pair bounce off each other wonderfully throughout the series. Harrelson’s Hunt is the no-nonsense, red-blooded patriot who’d do anything for his country and thinks Time magazine is propaganda. Meanwhile, Liddy is an ultra-serious and borderline sociopathic man who enjoys listening to recordings of Hitler’s speeches at dinner parties. Both actors play the parts seriously enough for the show to exude an enjoyable dry sense of cynical humour.
As the show goes on and the conspiracy thickens, the script transforms into a tragic character piece of someone who’s been betrayed by his government. The only real misstep of the series is that (thanks to a mountain of revelations towards the end) it’s unable to linger on its reflective side for long. It instead rushes towards the finish line where another episode would have been beneficial to better flesh out the ending. Overall, Mandell’s political farce is an outrageous slice of modern history.
White House Plumbers is released on Sky on 30th May 2023.
Watch the trailer for White House Plumbers here: