The Discovery Channel explores Watergate in a five-hour series
airing Sunday through Wednesday. The two-hour premiere episode
begins at 8 p.m. Sunday, and the next three begin each evening at
9. A co-production of the BBC and the Discovery Channel, it
examines the political scandal with the clear-sightedness that
comes from hindsight.
The series was broadcast on the BBC in England this past spring
and created a sensation, generating reports about it in several
American newspapers. The five hours presented on the Discovery
Channel are only marginally different from what aired in England.
Noted journalist Daniel Schorr, who was on President Richard M.
Nixon's enemies list in the early '70s, is the narrator for the
series, and he was given leeway by the Discovery Channel to make
minor script changes, "which I exercised discreetly," he says.
The Discovery Channel wanted an American to narrate the program
for broadcast in the United States, and Schorr agreed to do so if
he were allowed to edit the script so he could make some points he
felt were important. "I did like the script," he says, "or I would
not have been able to do it."
The series relies on extensive interviews with the participants
in the Watergate affair. Prominent among these are White House
counsel John Dean; Jeb MacGruder, a political operative caught up
in the events; White House Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, whose
recently published diaries created much media comment and an outcry
from Nixon partisans; Nixon aide John Ehrlichman; and G. Gordon
Liddy, mastermind, along with Howard Hunt, of the Nixon
administration's "dirty tricks."
As the series reveals, the background to Watergate lay in the
very early stages of the Nixon administration. Vietnam War protests
and subsequent events infuriated Nixon, and when Daniel - Ellsberg
leaked government documents exploring the origins of America's
involvement in Vietnam to The New York Times and The Washington
Post, Nixon, as Ehrlichman put it, wanted somebody punished. The
administration set up a "Special Investigation Unit" led by Hunt
and Liddy, that masterminded not only the break-in at Democratic
headquarters in the Watergate complex but an earlier break-in at
the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist designed to get information
to discredit Ellsberg.
Besides following the events from Nixon's election in 1968 to
his resignation in 1974, the series offers insight into the men
behind the events. Several of the participants now devote their
lives to religious and humanitar- ian causes. MacGruder is
interviewed wearing clerical garb. Charles Colson's ministry among
prison inmates is well-publicized. …