Tricky Dick (2019)

tricky dick poster 2019 documentary series
8.0 Overall Score

Nice, concise telling of Nixon's rise and fall

Feels some areas were picked and expanded for the telling while others were neglected

tricky dick title card episode guide

Step behind the scenes of one of the strangest presidencies of all time…in their own words

Richard Nixon had a dream of being the President and rapidly rising through the political circles, his dream appeared to be within grasp.  After a number of devastating fails, Tricky Dick got his shot…but the war in Vietnam, paranoia, and a “win at all costs” mentality was his downfall.  This is Nixon’s story in his own words, and the words of those around him.

Tricky Dick is a CNN four part documentary.  It aired from March 17, 2019 to April 7, 2019.  The series received positive reviews.

My interest in Nixon is more an interest in the period.  Nixon seems distant to me, but would have been president when I was born if not for Watergate.  Visiting documentaries and stories from this period of time shows a turbulent United States and helps explain where and why the United States developed following Nixon and the fallout.  It also provides comfort food for current times which also seem problematic and challenging.

tricky dick episode 1 the will to win kennedy nixon debate

…and we all know how this debate turned out for Nixon

The documentary tells its story through existing video and recordings without doing new interviews or reflection by historians or people who knew Nixon.  This gives it a sense of purity.  Some of the Nixon recordings are from later reflections by Nixon which does give a bit of reflection, but these are contrasted with “in real time” recordings which shows an unfiltered Nixon (which isn’t always flattering).

The documentary in this sense is well put together.  Unfortunately, if you watch the documentary in post broadcast, it feels a bit stunted by obvious commercial breaks and headers.  It feels like with the rise of streaming that the documentary should have been edited for later streaming.  The style of the documentary also allows for bias and misses since the editors had to scour and pick-and-choose what went into the documentary.  It might be Nixon and his allies and enemies in their own words, but those words were still chosen.

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Dick is…tricky

The big question is who is Richard M. Nixon?  Was he a jerk?  Did was he doing what he believed was the best for the country?  Was he bitter, or the bigger question was he criminal?  He broke the law, that wasn’t in question, but Nixon’s paranoia and fears kind of seem to go hand-in-hand, but overall, it feels like (as distasteful as some of his private recordings can be) that he felt he was doing the right thing.  The documentary’s use of only past footage leaves the decision up to the viewer and less guided by historians or Nixon’s contemporaries.  He does still feel like a used car salesman whose smile is just a bit too wide and his words are too smooth to be honest.  Tricky Dick of course was an apt name for him in that sense.

tricky dick episode 4 and then you destroy yourself nixon leaves white house

…that’s all folks!

The times are turbulent and in 2019 when the documentary was released, it was meant to draw parallels to Trump’s America and the impeachment threats.  It uses quotes from Nixon calling the press the enemy, condemning people leaking the Pentagon Papers, and attacking homosexuals, Jewish people, and others.  It also dips into the possibility that Nixon worked to scuttle peace in Vietnam while he was a candidate during his run against Humphry because it would have hurt his chances…then lied about it to Johnson directly.  Nixon’s rhetoric is similar but the enactment of policies based on those personal beliefs didn’t feel like it guided Nixon’s White House agenda…and though he disagreed with his “enemies” in the Democratic Party, he still seemed (for the most part) to respect them.  While Nixon’s crimes or personality don’t really match up with Trump, it is a nice reminder that the country has been in the dumps before and managed to pull itself out of a hole.  Yes, there is more division and problems seem to be piling on other problems, but there has to be hope and in its own cynical way Tricky Dick provides some.  Still with a campaign slogan like “I Like Dick” and “Nobody Can Lick Dick”, Nixon was bound to turn heads one way or another.

Tricky Dick—Complete Episode Guide:

tricky dick episode 1 the will to win john f kennedy richard m nixon

“The Will to Win”

Episode 1:  The Will to Win Airdate:  03/17/19

Born on January 9, 1913, Richard Milhouse Nixon has a rocket rise to fame in the Republican political world and selected as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate, he becomes the youngest vice president.  When Nixon makes a run for the White House in 1960, Nixon runs into trouble in the form of John F. Kennedy Jr.

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“Nixon’s the One”

Episode 2:  Nixon’s the One Airdate:  03/24/19

With the presidential loss in 1960 and the California gubernatorial loss in 1962, Nixon’s career in politics could be finish.  When Johnson begins to show weakness in the potential 1968 race, Richard Nixon sees that it could finally be his chance to take the Presidency…but the entry of Robert F. Kennedy into the race could mean a repeat of history.

tricky dick episode 3 storm clouds nixon inaugeration

“Storm Clouds”

Episode 3:  Storm Clouds Airdate:  03/24/19

Nixon has achieved his lifelong goal of being President of the United States, but now finds himself saddled with dealing with the war in Vietnam.  Protests and the shooting at Kent State demonstrates a growing rift in America and a generational divide toward Nixon.  More and more paranoid, Nixon is about to make a mistake that will be his downfall.

tricky dick episode 4 and then you destroy yourself nixon resignation

“And Then You Destroy Yourself”

Episode 4:  And Then You Destroy Yourself Airdate:  04/07/19

The Watergate break-in is gaining steam and reports of tapes of events in the Oval Office could force Nixon’s hand.  The end is coming and the events could change America for decades.

Related Links:

Dick (1999)

JFK (1991)

The Post (2017)

All the President’s Men (1976)

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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