Literally a play on words, Larry Gelbart's rather broad put-down of America's leaders plays better in this made-for-cable adaptation than it did on the stage. Savagely satirizing politicians and media hounds in a TV setting that displays these individuals at their most corrupt, MASTERGATE
engages in doublespeak which allows the participants in a fictional governmental scandal to say exactly the opposite of what they really mean.
Totally News Network is proud of its coverage of a governmental hearing into a conspiracy more notorious than Watergate. A senatorial committee probes an abuse of power overseen by a war hero, Major Manley Battle (James Coburn), who regards national security laws as a mere formalities, and a CIA
mastermind, Wylie Slaughter (Burgess Meredith), who leaves videotaped instructions on how to continue the military scam after his death. The committee zeros in on Steward Butler (Ed Begley Jr.) who lies about the attorney general's role in seizing the property of a millionaire tax fugitive whose
holdings include Masters Pictures International.
While contemplating the President's knowledge of events, the interrogators grill an IRS lackey, Abel Lamb (Bruno Kirby), about using a motion picture budget to cover the purchase of arms for a banana republic. After querying the Secretary of State (Ken Howard), the investigating committee learns
that under the guise of financing TET: THE MOVIE, the U.S. Government supplied rebels with the means of overthrowing the communist-held land of Ambigua.
After more evasions from Manley Battle and V.P. Dale Burden (Dennis Weaver), it becomes clear that the freedom campaign backfired even after faked film footage was used to dupe presidential contributors into forking over money to fund the guerillas. By the time the guerrillas had turned on their
benefactors, the illegal methods of fundraising had come to light. As the hearings conclude, Slaughter appears as a hologram to castigate the namby-pamby senators and to point out that patriots such as he and his fellow witnesses will continue to save America in spite of itself.
The clever convolutions of the plot pale in comparison to Gelbart's expertly intricate dialogue. To emphasize the distortions of logic that political figures disingenuously use to cover their tracks, Gelbart employs puns, silly acronyms, tortured syntax, and double entendres to create a
nonsensical world in which Lewis Carroll would have felt right at home. Augmenting Gelbart's duplicitous dialogue is his use of a framework mimicking a cable-TV broadcast to make the verbal gobbledygook seem real. Well-executed approximations of newsbreaks give a realistic feel to the fictional
Veteran TV-writer Gelbart proves that when you scratch a politician you'll find an actor underneath; he theorizes that the excesses of the Reagan years were the result of the transformation of Washington D.C. into Hollywood-on-the-Potomac. The production does also have its drawbacks, including
scattershot lampoons of news broadcasts and an overly preachy finale.
With knockout dialogue like "I was misled to understand him" and "the truth will have to wait until after I finish testifying," MASTERGATE is an immaculate example of verbally sophisticated comedy.(Profanity, adult situations.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: Literally a play on words, Larry Gelbart's rather broad put-down of America's leaders plays better in this made-for-cable adaptation than it did on the stage. Savagely satirizing politicians and media hounds in a TV setting that displays these individuals… (more)