Spanning thirty-three years and 1,504 episodes, "Firing Line" was originally a one-hour debate program (later reduced to a half-hour) hosted by political commentator William F. Buckley. An eloquent interviewer and a formidable debater, Buckley verbally sparred on "Firing Line" with many notable figures in the latter half of the twentieth century. His guests included future U.S. presidents such as Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, venerated writers such as Tom Wolfe and Jack Kerouac, and political intellectuals such as Barry Goldwater and Noam Chomsky. One of the longest-running shows in television history, "Firing Line" garnered an Emmy Award in 1969.Written by
In order to interview television guests for Firing Line, William F. Buckley was compelled by law to join the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), an American labor union. As an anti-union conservative, Buckley abhorred his SAG membership. In 1974, Buckley legally challenged the SAG's union requirements for news broadcasters such as himself. His challenge failed, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case. See more »
William F. Buckley, Jr. published his first book God and Man At Yale in the early Fifties and became a conservative celebrity of sorts, but not really known to the general public. That was until 1965 when the toddling Conservative Party of New York ran him as their candidate for Mayor against John V. Lindsay and Abraham D. Beame, both of whom went on to become mayors.
The celebrity he gained from that campaign brought him this interview show which ran 33 years on public television. He had a variety of guests across the political spectrum and they engaged in lively intellectual discussion.
I will say this for Buckley, conservative that he was, he always kept the discussion on a high plain, but even ordinary folks could appreciate the man's wit if not his politics. Buckley would not have found Fox News a real comfortable place to be.
I was in college when this show was first being broadcast and some friends had an in over at the studio the show was taped. Friends and I managed to be in the studio audience for several shows. I recall being in the audience when he interviewed Allen Ginsberg, David Susskind, and the one I remember best was with British Tory politician Enoch Powell who looked like Terry-Thomas. Perhaps it was Powell's appearance that prevented folks in the UK from taking him seriously about the unrestricted immigration policies there.
I think Buckley was at his best with some of the British, he did some good shows with Malcolm Muggeridge and Alistair Cooke, one time liberals who now were his neighbors on the right. Those shows hopefully are preserved.
Firing Line never descended to the lowest common denominator, Buckley would not have lasted on the air if he had with his kind of audience. When he retired, the show was canceled. And why not, it was his show uniquely that only one with his special wit and personality could have presided over.
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