Sunday, April 7, 2024

A Flawed Buckley Documentary

I have read and watched William F. Buckley Jr., conservative author, National Review editor, newspaper columnist, and TV host of Firing Line, since I was a teenager. He was a huge influence.   

Sadly, I never met or interviewed Mr. Buckley, but I reviewed two of his books for the Philadelphia Inquirer

He was alive when I published the first, and I hope he read my favorable review.    

So I eagerly tuned into the PBS American Masters documentary, I watched the PBS American Masters documentary on him. 

There was much to like and there was much to dislike. 

The current editor of National Review agree.

PBS, the home of the late William F. Buckly Jr. the home of William F. Buckley Jr.’s Firing Line from 1971 to 1999, has chosen our founder as the subject of the latest installment of its American Masters documentary series. The two-hour film, aptly titled “The Incomparable Mr. Buckley,” airs tonight. More WFB on our televisions is welcome, especially in these times. But the film ends on a tendentious and discordant note that detracts from the whole. 

There is much to recommend the documentary, which spans WFB’s well-lived life from beginning to end, covers the major episodes in his career from his time as a student at Yale to the fall of the Soviet empire, and aptly situates him within the context of his times. The nearly two dozen people interviewed include many hostile left-leaning historians, but also Christopher Buckley, Matt Continetti, Peter Robinson, Alvin Felzenberg, Lee Edwards, and our own Rick Brookhiser and Jay Nordlinger. There is extensive archival footage of WFB, which captures his wit, eloquence, gentlemanliness, and joyous mischievousness. 

… WFB would have been the first to warn that nothing in our politics ever ends, and no victory is permanent but that of the Cross. The disgraceful events of January 6 were at odds with his decades of advocacy against riot and disorder and in favor of America’s founding charters. To equate Buckley’s conservatism with darkness, grievance, and conflict for its own sake is a smear based on any fair reading of the record. 

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link: 

William F. Buckley Jr. PBS Documentary Flawed | National Review  

And you can watch the documentary via the below link:

American Masters | The Incomparable Mr. Buckley | Season 38 | PBS  

You can also read my Philadelphia Inquirer reviews of two of Mr. Buckley’s books below: 

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