Nixon, Trump and Washington behind closed doors: fictionalizing Watergate and the prescience of the historical miniseries

McNally, Karen (2022) Nixon, Trump and Washington behind closed doors: fictionalizing Watergate and the prescience of the historical miniseries. European Journal of American Culture, 41 (2). pp. 127-146. ISSN 1466-0407

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Abstract / Description

The development of the miniseries as a TV genre during the 1970s became central to American television’s dramatization of the nation’s history through stories that combined fact and fiction to relate the past to contemporary US culture. Rarely considered, however, is the ways in which increasing slippages between the screen and real-world events might work to presage the culture and politics of the future, illuminating historical connections that move beyond a television drama’s moment of production. This article explores the 1977 ABC miniseries Washington Behind Closed Doors, an adaptation of John Ehrlichman’s novel The Company and its fictional tale of a Nixon-like president, drawing on the author’s experiences as part of the Nixon administration. Emerging in the contexts of the historical miniseries and various screen depictions of Watergate, the show became part of a blurring of the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction in the re-telling of Richard Nixon’s doomed tenure as president. At the same time, the article contends, the explicit fictionalization of the nation’s recent political history in Washington Behind Closed Doors provides a space in which to read the show as a prescient imagining of the United States’ political future later realized in the presidency of Donald Trump.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © Karen McNally, 2022. The definitive, peer reviewed and edited version of this article is published in European Journal of American Culture, Volume 41, Number 2, pp.127-146, DOI:
Uncontrolled Keywords: Donald Trump; Richard Nixon; presidency; historical drama; 1970s miniseries; American television history
Subjects: 300 Social sciences > 320 Political science
700 The arts; fine & decorative arts > 790 Recreational & performing arts
900 History & geography > 970 History of North America
Department: School of Computing and Digital Media
Depositing User: Karen Mcnally
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2022 13:36
Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 01:58


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