Tail Gunner Joe is among the rare TV biopics that transcends its subject to create a complex portrait of a person and an era. Dominated by Peter Boyle's convincing performance as 1950s Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy, Lane Slate's teleplay chronicles the highlights (or lowlights) of a period in United States history when the mere accusation of associating with Communists could tarnish and sometimes blacklist its victims. Boyle helps raise the material above political diatribe, suggesting that McCarthy's egotism pushed the U.S. along a path of paranoid hysteria, where anyone could find himself under suspicion of being "Red." Jud Taylor's unobtrusive direction allows Boyle to find subtlety where other actors might resort to bombast. The result was one of the best TV movies of the late 1970s.
by Richard Gilliam review