Tonight: All About Ann (Richards), on HBO

Getty Images/Courtesy of HBO
Getty Images/Courtesy of HBO / Getty Images/Courtesy of HBO

Tonight: tune in for All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State. This is the story of a Democratic, recovering alcoholic, witty, and seemingly tireless woman who rose to be Governor of Texas in 1990. The documentary premieres Monday, April 28 at 9pm ET/PT.

First up, here's a short trailer to give you a taste:

Tonight, HBO airs a documentary about the life of Ann Richards. She first came to my attention in 1988, when she gave a barn-burner speech at the Democratic National Convention. (I'm pretty sure I saw her 1984 DNC speech nominating Mondale, but that memory is hazy—I mention this because that DNC coverage was among the first things I ever saw on television, and I found it enthralling.) While Richards's 1988 speech was most notable for stinging jokes at Republicans' expense, there were also memorable policy-related zingers, like:

"When we pay billions for planes that won't fly, billions for tanks that won't fire, and billions for systems that won't work, that old dog won't hunt. And you don't have to be from Waco to know that when the Pentagon makes crooks rich and doesn't make America strong, that it's a bum deal."

Photo courtesy of HBO

Much of the documentary deals with the bruising Democratic primary race leading up to the 1990 Texas gubernatorial election. Using interviews with campaign workers and extensive historical footage, this part of the film really sings—even though we know she will succeed, Richards really seems in great danger of losing that race. It reminds us what a big deal Richards was, not just to be the second* elected female governor of Texas, but to be a Democrat! Running Texas! Recall, however, that she only served one term; she was followed by George W. Bush. (That part of the film is fascinating too, as we see some of Karl Rove's campaign tactics and we see how Bush looked and spoke back then.)

* = The first was Ma Ferguson. The film discusses Ferguson and the Richards's own frustration that people often forget that bit of history.

Photo courtesy of HBO

Ann Richards was not perfect. She was an alcoholic and she flip-flopped on legislation that criminalized homosexuality. But warts and all, Richards was an engaging character and extremely effective politician. This documentary is well worth a look if you remember Richards fondly, if you don't know anything about her (you're missing out), or you just want to know how the heck a woman became governor of the great state of Texas in 1990.

Here's some preview footage from the film:

The documentary premieres tonight, Monday, April 28 at 9pm ET/PT. It runs about 90 minutes, and will presumably be on HBO Go if you miss it tonight.