In some ways, gas light feels surplus to requirements. The story of Watergate, the great American political scandal of 1972 that brought down President Nixon, has not only been told before, but television shows adapted from podcasts seem to cost 10 cents.
And yet, this tongue-in-cheek four-part drama based on Slate’s play slow burn The series has a trump card: Julia Roberts playing Martha Mitchell, subject of the titular gaslighting and wife of President Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell (played by Sean Penn and a huge budget for prosthetics).
As the first Watergate whistleblower (Mitchell tried to tell a reporter about Nixon’s ties to the scandal, but his cronies trashed her reputation), Roberts is magnetic: poofy hair and ravishing dresses that belie true determination and a deeper moral compass. stronger than that exhibited by those around her.
gas light begins five months before the Watergate building break-in, with a spotlight-loving Mitchell on an unintended collision course with scandal when smarmy White House attorney John Dean (Dan Stevens) and jealous FBI agent Gordon Liddy ( Shea Whigham) plan the “intelligence gathering.” ” that would ultimately lead Nixon to resign.
There are a lot of moving parts in the first episode, which occasionally loses sight of Mitchell herself. and nothing about gas light it’s particularly subtle: the message about ambitious but hapless men who prefer their women to feel calm and look pretty comes through loud and clear.
But the over-the-top nature of it all matches Mitchell’s larger-than-life charisma and the cartoonish incompetence of self-serving politicians. It’s also bolstered by a sharply written and surprisingly funny script that grotesquely magnifies everyone’s flaws.
Of course, in the end, it’s Roberts who steals the show: as a woman trying to be honest in a town where most people aren’t.
gas light is streaming on Starzplay