Frontline: The Choice 2008

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Airdate: 9-11 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 14 (PBS)

There are precious few sure things in television, still fewer in politics. But one thing we can count on is that if PBS' esteemed flagship documentary series "Frontline" tackles a subject, it's going to be done with great balance and unmatched depth.

This reviewer has never seen a bad "Frontline." Although it might seem we already know everything we ever possibly could about Barack Obama and John McCain, leave it to "Frontline's" fifth quadrennial look at a presidential race over the past 20 years -- "The Choice 2008" -- to present the biographies of this year's major party candidates for the Oval Office with a clear-eyed insight achieved by no one else. Not only isn't the two-hour program agonizingly repetitive, it feels somehow almost fresh and insightful as a result of its uncompromising lack of partisanship.

The program richly intersperses the fascinating stories of the two men vying for the land's highest office, examining their pasts and qualifications via interviews with friends, advisors, colleagues and pundits along with a wealth of revealing clips and photos. It carries with it the noble goal of presenting to voters a picture of the candidates unencumbered by the incessant hyperbole and spin to which we've all been subjected for what seems an eternity. It isn't as if anyone should still be truly undecided at this point. Obama and McCain aren't exactly ideological peas in a pod. But it still proves educational and stimulating to see a show like "The Choice 2008" that carries no other agenda than to enlighten and inform.

Production: WGBH Boston and Kirk Documentary Group.
Executive producer: David Fanning.
Producers: Michael Kirk, Jim Gilmore, Paul Stekler.
Co-producer: Mike Wiser.
Coordinating producer: Colette Neirouz. Writers: Michael Kirk, Paul Stekler.
Director: Michael Kirk. Reporter: Jim Gilmore.
Director of photography: Ben McCoy.
Editor: Steve Audette.
Music: John E. Low.
Sound mixer: Jim Sullivan.
Narrator: Will Lyman.

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