The Choice 2008
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Press Reaction

Ray Richmond, The Hollywood Reporter

... [L]eave it to "Frontline's" fifth quadrennial look at a presidential race ... to present the biographies of this year's major party candidates for the Oval Office with a clear-eyed insight achieved by no one else. Not only isn't the two-hour program agonizingly repetitive, it feels somehow almost fresh and insightful as a result of its uncompromising lack of partisanship. ...

David Zurawik, Baltimore Sun

... The producers weave the political histories of Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama into a nearly seamless two-hour film that moves with such focus and force that it feels more like 30 minutes. Narrative, or to use an older fashioned term, storytelling, is what drives this documentary with such velocity. ...

... While there are almost always complaints from one side or the other (or both) that one candidate or the other was favored in The Choice, that's just politics. This is biography with a capital "B" seeking to bag bigger prey: journalistic, if not historical, truth.

Vince Horiuchi, Salt Lake Tribune

... an important look at McCain and Obama that's stripped of commentary, subjective analysis and election rhetoric. ...

"Frontline's" special is absolutely necessary research for every eligible voter in America. ...

Eric Mink, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

... [Y]ou're likely to find value in "The Choice 2008," no matter how much you know or think you know about the candidates in this crucial presidential election. In filmmaking, there really is something to the notion of the whole exceeding the sum of its parts. Skilled storytellers working at the top of their game can combine information, first-person recollections, still and moving images, words and sounds -- even soundtracks of Obama and McCain reading the texts of their own autobiographies -- to create an intellectual and emotional journey that can surprise you. ...

Mary McNamara, Los Angeles Times

... "The Choice," written, produced and directed by veteran Frontline producer Michael Kirk, is a model for the phrase "fair and balanced." ...

... It certainly provides a startling contrast to the rest of the news cycle. Given the minue-by-minute media frenzy, the air of calm that presides over "The Choice" (much of it due to narrator Will Lyman's miraculous ability to sound reasonable yet dramatic) is excruciatingly poignant.

Why, we ask ourselves as the credits roll, can't the actual campaign be a sensible as the "Frontline" documentary?

Neil Genzlinger, The New York Times

... The program traces the now familiar life stories of the two men and name-checks some of their albatrosses. ... But the chronology goes only until the running-mate selections, leaving the story at a point when differences over the war in Iraq -- remember the war in Iraq? -- still seemed as if they might be the election's pivotal issue.

For anyone who has been paying the slightest attention to the race, that now-vs.-a-month-ago perspective is the main reason to watch this program, since nothing in it is new or earthshaking. ...

Joanna Weiss, The Boston Globe

... The contribution of "Frontline" is to step back from the fray, putting the past into a sober context that feels historical, almost archival. The quotes from advisers tend to be telling, instead of merely boosterish. And perhaps because the candidates themselves aren't interviewed, these two hours are refreshingly free of campaign talking points. ...

Rob Owen, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

... This two-hour program on the two nominees, presented every four years since 1988, doesn't attempt to compare their policies or fact check one's distortions about the other. Instead, it tries and largely succeeds at getting back to basics and answering the question: Who are these two guys who want to be president of the United States? ...

Alan Pergament, The Buffalo News

... a presidential campaign highlight that doesn't disappoint. ...

Roger Catlin, Hartford Courant

With cable news just about 24/7 on election coverage, it would seem that biographies of the two candidates have long since been told and retold.

But the 27th season of "Frontline" ... digs a bit deeper to tell the tales of John McCain and Barack Obama for "The Choice 2008." TV's best news documentary series has used the title of "The Choice" for 20 years since profiling the George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis in 1988. This time, they find some interesting stories largely in the pasts of the two [candidates]. ...

posted october 14, 2008

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