Picks and Pans Review: On Trial: Lee Harvey Oswald
If ever somebody stops you on the street to ask, "Who really shot President Kennedy? How many bullets were there, huh? Who's in the conspiracy?" you'd be wise to turn the nearest corner before they can change the subject to the Bermuda Triangle, fluoridation of water, the Loch Ness Monster and the CIA. The debate over Kennedy's assassination will never end and never even advance. So I wondered why Showtime was bothering to put Lee Harvey Oswald on trial and why they picked the 23rd anniversary of Kennedy's death to do it. Yet I couldn't help but be intrigued by the show. There's no script to this trial. Vincent Bugliosi of Manson fame tries Oswald, and Gerry Spence of Silkwood fame defends him before a real judge and jury with real witnesses. Bugliosi questions cops, people who were there that day, people who knew Oswald and experts on forensics, firearms, photography and chemistry; in his three-piece lawyer suit, he's all business. Spence, in his cowboy hat, is all theater, a more entertaining good ol' boy lawyer than Andy (Matlock) Griffith. He makes a sport of mispronouncing Bugliosi's name—"Booog-lee-os-ee." "The G is silent," Vincent reminds him. "That's the only thing that's silent about Mr. Bugliosi," Gerry jabs. But suddenly, with graphic gore, you are reminded of this show's serious subject—by enhanced pictures of Kennedy's skull exploding or by a witness from the autopsy who testifies, "The President's brains were literally blown out of his head; he had none." You're reminded of the human aspect of the tragedy when you hear a friend of Marina Oswald's on the stand. So the show is a very odd mix: humor, theater, tragedy, bullets, blood, the law and—there's no denying it—mystery. The trial and its verdict, which will be revealed only when the show airs, won't prove a damned thing. But even so, and even though the show is, at five and a half hours, very long, it's still mostly riveting—an experiment that works.