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1976: ABC Debuts the First 'Barbara Walters Special'
December 14, 2019  | By TV WW
 
This day in 1976 marked the first broadcast of an occasional special ABC presentation, The Barbara Walters Special. In the show, ABC News' Barbara Walters — who would go on to establish herself as one of television's best known interviewers — profiled President-elect Jimmy Carter, his wife, Rosalynn, and their family, and Barbara Streisand and hairdresser-turned-producer Jon Peters, the then-power couple who had collaborated on Streisand's hit, A Star is Born.

The one-hour special was the first of the four-a-year prime time specials Walters' was required to do as part of her record-breaking million-dollar contract

In her 2008 memoir, Audition, Walters talked about the critics' response to that initial show: "But what provoked the most wrath was a segment we sandwiched in between the Streisand interview and the Carters: a brief tour I conducted of my own apartment in New York. I really hadn't wanted to, but we were short a third guest. I hadn't been able to get another celebrity to agree to an interview, so against my better judgment — and it really was against my better judgment — we filled four minutes of the program with a view of my living room. We rationalized this by saying we had shown Streisand's home and Jimmy Carter's home, so why not mine?"
 
60 Minutes' Morley Safer, in his radio commentary, said: "Sandwiched between the white bread of the Carters and the pumpernickel of Streisand, we were treated to the pastrami of Ms. Walters herself."

The Washington Post's Sander Vanocur said of the first special: "She's bad at it. Does she ever let anyone finish a thought?..." And, in reference to the apartment tour: "She was interviewing herself. That way, at least, the only person she can interrupt is herself."

But ultimately, Walters got the last laugh: "That first Special was a runaway smash hit," she wrote in Audition. "It significantly beat both CBS and NBC. More than fifteen million people watched."


 
 
 
 
 
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