The massive growth in podcast listeners over the past few years has prompted several popular podcasts to be spotlighted as TV shows or movies. One of the most striking examples of this is Gas lighting. The upcoming Starz limited series on the Watergate scandal features a vibrant cast of actors.
With Julia Roberts and Sean Penn, Gas lighting use it Slow burning podcast as an entry point into a more personal account of an iconic scandal in American political history.
Slate’s “Slow Burn” podcast took on Watergate in Season 1
Slow burning is a series of narrative podcasts focusing on a singular event in American culture and exploring its context, immediate reaction, and legacy of how it shaped the world. To date, six seasons of the Slate Podcast exist, with the Watergate scandal being the first topic in 2017. The other seasons cover the Bill Clinton/Monica Lewinsky scandal, the deaths of Tupac and Biggie, the rise of David Duke, the road to the Iraq war and the LA riots of 1992.
Hosted by Leon Neyfakh, the eight-episode first season sought to expand the scope of the event – beyond the two corrupt presidents who tried to use illegal means to win the election – to understand how the America as a whole handled the scandal.
The first episode focuses on Attorney General John Mitchell’s wife, Martha Mitchell, who was tranquilized and detained to prevent her from telling reporters what she knew about Watergate. Martha was generally discredited and forgotten in the wake of the scandal.
‘Gaslit’ creator wanted to do a Richard Nixon project for years
In reality, many powerful people worked to make Martha insignificant during and after Watergate. Corn Slow burning recovered his humanity under much better conditions. Now, she is the subject of a trending show that debuts on April 24, 2022.
In Gas lighting, Julia Roberts plays Martha and Sean Penn plays her husband John. Penn hides under Colin Farrell-like prosthetics in The Batman. Famous actors round out the rest of the cast; Dan Stevens, Betty Gilpin and Shea Whigham to name a few.
For Roberts, this project is something of a sequel. His last major role was in the first season of Back home, another podcast-based TV show. In the psychological thriller, the central character is also a woman under state-sanctioned duress. Directed and produced by Sam Esmail of Mister Robot fame, his production company Esmail Corp has also signed on to help create Gas lighting.
The show is created by Robbie Pickering, a veteran writer who notably worked on the final season of Mister Robot. This is his first time as showrunner. Fittingly, Gaslit is a story he has dreamed of telling for years. Pickering is admittedly obsessed with the Nixon administration. In the past, he attempted to create dramatizations about this era to no avail.
The Starz show tells the story of Watergate from a different angle
Movies or shows about this era tend to come in the form of investigative docudramas. All the President’s Men it’s good but it already exists. For Gas lighting to justify herself, she must find a different angle that is worth exploring. Rather than telling the story in a stereotypical way, Gas lighting attempts to present itself as a layered character study on deeply flawed people.
“The more you immerse yourself in this era and Watergate, the more you realize it’s not like those Oliver Stone movies, with these huge heroes and huge villains,” Pickering told Vanity Fair.. “It’s mundane in the best way.”
Nixon loyalists treated Martha horribly, but her extremely conservative viewpoint also made her complicit in the political climate that led to her abuse. It is difficult to paint a neat and endearing portrait of her. In the right hands, however, Martha’s journey can be emotionally resonant no matter where you find yourself on the political spectrum.
Martha reminds Pickering of the women he grew up with in a conservative evangelical family. He summed them up as “human beings who have a capacity for empathy and who deserve to be empathetic”.
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