Picks and Pans Review: Winchell

updated 11/16/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/16/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

HBO (Sat, Nov. 21, 8 p.m. ET)

In print and on the radio, famed gossip columnist Walter Winchell had a slangy, hard-driving style that let people know he was always in the know and always on the go. Urgency, not depth, was his stock-in-trade. So the superficiality of this TV movie may be a form of faithfulness to its subject. Still, as he hustles through Winchell's career from the '20s to the '60s, director Paul Mazursky (Down and Out in Beverly Hills, An Unmarried Woman) leaves us hungry for more on what motivated the reporter to amass power through information and what spurred his progress from apparently nonideological New York City newshound to FDR cheerleader and anti-Nazi crusader to redbaiting Joe McCarthy booster. Stanley Tucci (The Impostors) is a crisp and cocky Winchell, and his mannerisms seem just right, but the film never delivers a great deal more than surface verisimilitude. And by adopting the point of view of the columnist's chief ghostwriter, Herman Klurfeld (Paul Giamatti, The Truman Show), Winchell only distances us further from the man himself.

Bottom Line: Worth watching, but something short of a sensational scoop

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