John McLaughlin began influencing the political world while people were fiddling with rabbit ears.
The host of “McLaughlin Group,” who passed on Tuesday at his home in Virginia at 89, used the small screen in the 1980’s to bring hard-hitting political commentary into the living room.
His show, which has been broadcast since 1982, currently airs on PBS and WCBS-TV in New York. It features political pundits and journalists, namely Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, Clarence Page and Tom Rogan.
For McLaughlin’s part, he was the moderator, often sitting in between four other guests, defusing heated debates and pushing to the next topic.
McLaughin, described on his show’s Facebook page as “a former jesuit priest, teacher, pundit and news host,” had not missed an appearance in 34 years, until Sunday.
According to an earlier Daily News report, Sunday’s show opened with a note from McLaughlin offering his support and explaining his absence. He described himself as being “under the weather.”
Since McLaughlin had not missed a show in over three decades, that begs the question: what other can’t-miss talk shows emerged in or around the 1980s and captured viewers’ attention like McLaughlin did?
Here are five programs that accomplished just that.
1. “Larry King Live” (premiered 1985)
Talk show host Larry King, left, fans himself during a commercial break for CNN’s “Larry King Live Show” as his guest Texas billionaire and independent presidential hopeful, H. Ross Perot looks on Thursday, April 16, 1992 in Los Angeles.
(Chris Martinez/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
CNN’s most-watched and longest-running program, “Larry King Live” featured the levelheaded, fearless King, now 82, who for decades interviewed and deconstructed politicians, celebrities and other notable figures.
In many ways King’s refined, laid-back personality on air was similar to McLaughlin’s.
King’s set, like the casual McLaughlin backdrop, featured a desk, polished table, microphone and a pixelated world map. But perhaps the most notable feature in the studio was King’s suspenders.
He sometimes answered call-in questions and was known for straightforward, one-sentence queries.
2. “The Oprah Winfrey Show” (premiered 1986)
Television performer Oprah Winfrey during the broadcast from Cumming, Georgia on Feb. 9, 1987.
Winfrey’s show is still the highest-rated talk show in American television history and she is perhaps the most well-known TV personality of the generation.
Winfrey, now 62, was always a glowing figure on the screen, making her show educational and decidedly eye-opening.
“Oprah,” as it is mainly known, featured prominent guests, courageous segments and moments of extravagant gift-giving.
Since retiring, Winfrey hasn’t strayed too far from the limelight, appearing in notable films such as “The Butler” and “Selma,” among other endeavors.
3. “Geraldo” (premiered 1987)
Geraldo Rivera’s daytime talk show, which ran for 11 years, is sometimes considered a “pioneer” program in the “Trash TV” genre. He often featured controversial guests and theatrical moments of on-set drama.
In 1988, a well-publicized brawl ensued during the show that saw Rivera, now 73, getting his nose broken by a thrown chair. The episode featured a collection of white supremacists and black and Jewish activists. A frenzy ensued between the guests and Rivera eventually got into the mix, emerging with a bloodied and broken nose.
Rivera’s show is said to have helped pave the way for later shows like “The Jerry Springer Show.”
4. “The Phil Donahue Show” (premiered 1967 in Ohio; moved to New York in 1985)
Phil Donahue speaks with the audience during the first “Donahue” show broadcast from New York, Jan. 8, 1985 in New York.
(Dave Pickoff/ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Donahue, now 80, was seen on national television for 26 years. He moved from local Ohio programming to Chicago and finally to New York City in 1985, where he stayed until 1996.
Donahue never refrained from touching on the hottest, edgiest topics, such as civil rights, war, abortion, etc.
His program is also considered an innovative “Trash TV” show, influencing celebrities like Winfrey, who later interviewed Donahue for her O, The Oprah Magazine.
Donahue and his pre-tabloid format were noteworthy for many reasons, one of which was the host’s proactive style, taking the microphone into the audience to field questions. He was out front on many newsworthy topics and movements, and in Winfrey’s same 2002 article, she stated there would be no “Oprah Winfrey Show” without Donahue’s lasting impact.
5. “The George Michael Sports Machine” (premiered 1984)
Jumping outside the talk show and public affairs genres, there was an influential “machine” operated by George Michael.
“Sports Machine” was broadcast between 1984 and 2007, after Michael’s successful four-year run of “George Michael’s Sports Final.”
“Sports Machine” became a hit mainly for its focus on highlights instead of lengthy commentary, and Michael also featured little-known or underappreciated sports in his weekly wrap-up show.
NBC’s Sunday night show was at the top of its respective genre for years, until specialty sports programs slowly pushed it aside.
Lindsay Czarniak joined Michael as a co-host in 2006, but the longtime network mainstay announced his retirement and the end of the show in March 2007.