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Inside HBO’s White House Plumbers

by HBOWatch Staff
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White House Plumbers is a five-part limited series showing how G. Gordon Liddy (played by Justin Theroux) and E. Howard Hunt (played by Woody Harrelson) accidentally became Nixon’s political saboteurs.

This satirical drama begins in 1971, when former FBI and CIA agents, respectively, are hired by the White House to investigate the Pentagon Paper leaks. Only things don’t go exactly as planned… and the pair end up harming the one they were hired to protect.

Is White House Plumbers a True Story?

The short answer is: Yes! The White House Plumbers (also known as the Plumbers, the White House Special Investigations Unit, or the Room 16 Project) were established during the presidency of Richard Nixon – right after the publication of the Pentagon Papers – a report created by the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Force in June 1971. 

The goal of this covert unit? To stop or respond to the leak of classified information to the news media. The result? Not particularly stellar. 

The Book the Inspired the Story

The tale of the White House Plumbers is based on a book written in 2022 by Egil Bud Krogh and Matthew Krogh. The book is actually the account of what really happened when Nixon asked Krogh and co-director David Young to break into the office of Dr. Fielding (who was treating suspected leaker Daniel Ellsberg). He did so by hiring Howard Hunt and Gordon Liddy.

The book itself is thoughtful and gripping, exploring themes like integrity and power. The miniseries also serves as a cautionary tale, despite the occasional narrative clichés.

Why Should You Watch The White House Plumbers?

This new HBO / Warner Bros series is a satirical political drama miniseries and has an enormous budget. It was written by Peter Huyck (Veep, What Men Want, King of the Hill) and Alex Gregory (Veep, The Larry Sanders Show) and directed by David Mandel (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Veep, Seinfeld).

The series has five episodes and an almost unbelievable supporting cast, including Lena Headley as Dorothy Hunt, Domhnall Gleeson as John Dean, Kiernan Shipka as the young daughter Kevan Hunt, and Kim Coates as Frank Sturgis.

The series shed some light on the series of events that led to Watergate. The series starters with Hunt and Liddy being tasked with investigating the Pentagon paper leaks, but they soon find themselves trying to plant listening devices for the White House. All of this happens as their families break apart.

The series recognizes Watergate as a political tragedy (one that accidentally toppled a president), so you might find it a bit depressing. However, the performances of both Theroux and Harrelson are too good to ignore.

The fact that White House Plumbers is based on actual events, the show highlights how facts can, sometimes, be stranger than fiction.

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