Picks and Pans Review: The Last Debate

updated 11/06/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/06/2000 AT 01:00 AM EST

Showtime (Sun., Nov. 5, 8 p.m. ET)

As the moderator of all three presidential debates this fall, PBS news anchor Jim Lehrer was criticized by some for letting the candidates bend—if not break—their own rules. In ironic contrast Mike Howley, the manipulative moderator of Lehrer's 1995 novel The Last Debate, literally steals the show. In this TV—movie adaptation, Howley (James Garner), a cynical pundit, persuades his three fellow debate panelists to ambush the 2000 Republican presidential nominee—no, not Bush, but a fictional conservative named Meredith. Seems that Howley has obtained evidence that Meredith has abused several women, including his wife. When the panelists fling those charges at him the candidate goes ballistic, his poll numbers plunge, and his interrogators turn into media superstars. So who was Howley's Deep Throat? Peter Gallagher plays a magazine reporter determined to find out. Gallagher's quest is as never-ending as his eyebrows, and the surprise payoff may not reward your patience. But Garner's sly, curmudgeonly turn as Howley should compensate.

Bottom Line: Stay the course

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