TV's Greatest Sleazebag


Morton Downey Jr. is mostly forgotten. You can't blame anyone who doesn't want to preserve his sleazy memory, but Downey deserves more regard, given his influence over modern pop politics and media. Evocateur is a documentary that puts his rapid rise and fall back in the spotlight.

The film doesn't pretend Downey was revolutionary merely for being an opinionated jerk on TV, but it does demonstrate that he was one of the most effective, inflammatory entertainers out there. He was ostensibly "conservative" and presented himself as a voice for an often ugly brand of right-wing populism, but his success helped create a space for lefty analogs such as Al Sharpton. Behind-the-scenes footage shows Downey putting on such a convincing act, you could call him a political Andy Kaufman.

Some of Evocateur's antics would be unthinkable under today's pop culture values. It makes you wonder whether today's society is now more progressive, more polite, more prudish, or perhaps all three. -Zenon Evans