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Archive for Thursday, February 15, 2007

Show reveals Nixon’s odd sides

February 15, 2007

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I freely admit to being a Richard Nixon junkie. I can't read enough books or watch too many documentaries about Nixon, arguably the most tortured and contradictory soul to ever enter the White House. In the two-hour profile "Nixon: A Presidency Revealed" (7 p.m., History), Henry Kissinger likens Nixon to a character out of Shakespeare, a man with flashes of greatness betrayed not by enemies but by his own inner demons.

A character as complex as Nixon can't be summed up in a mere two hours, and "Revealed" takes curious shortcuts. It omits two central chapters from Nixon's biography - his role in prosecuting Alger Hiss and his bitter 1950 race for the California Senate seat. It's almost impossible to understand the man, or his many detractors, without at least a glance at those events.

But "Revealed" is not without its rewards. It's brimming with personal anecdotes from aides and colleagues who were confused by his odd behavior and innate shyness.

Former Nixon aide Alexander Butterfield recalls his first encounter with the boss. It was supposed to be a simple handshake, but the insecure Nixon couldn't cope with spontaneous human interaction and was reduced to uncomfortable grunts and groans. Butterfield left the room mystified by the weird man in the Oval Office.

Kissinger and several historians wonder aloud why a man so ill at ease with people would have entered politics in the first place.

"Revealed" makes much of Nixon's analytical mind and his capacity for visionary strategic thinking. But, as in "Macbeth," it's the dark side of the ruler that continually rises to the surface.

True Nixon junkies will recognize the similarities between the real Nixon and the fictional President Logan (Gregory Itzin), the uneasy, amoral president on last season's "24." Nixon also appears frequently on another great Fox series. The writers of "The Simpsons" are obsessed with our 37th president and even bestowed Nixon's middle name on Bart's best friend, Milhouse.

Tonight's other highlights

¢ The competition continues on "Survivor: Fiji" (7 p.m., CBS).

¢ Earl's birthday party brings back bad memories on "My Name is Earl" (7 p.m., NBC).

¢ Daniel befriends a woman (Lucy Liu) he once spurned on "Ugly Betty" (7 p.m., ABC).

¢ Back to business school on "The Office" (7:30 p.m., NBC).

¢ A miniature murderer looms large on "CSI" (8 p.m., CBS).

¢ The Cohens pick up the pieces after the big trembler on "The O.C." (8 p.m., Fox). Next week brings the final episode of this series.

¢ Elizabeth Reaser guest stars on "Grey's Anatomy" (8 p.m., ABC).

¢ Liz lightens up on "30 Rock" (8:30 p.m., NBC).

¢ A judge balks when Sebastian takes the case of his wife's murder on "Shark" (9 p.m., CBS). Tim Matheson and Illeana Douglas guest star.

¢ Mannish contemplates an organ donation on "ER" (9 p.m., NBC).

¢ Marin shares her cabin with a funky handyman on "Men in Trees" (9 p.m., ABC).

¢ "Final 24" (9 p.m., Biography) looks at the day Hunter S. Thompson died.

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