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 »
I was baffled and sad when this show was cancelled. Sad, because it mysteriously went off the air in the mid 90's, and baffled for the same reason. It wasn't until a year or two later that I discovered that Bill Buckley had retired from the show, and the emotions hit me all over again.
I grew up watching Firing Line, and always found it extremely fascinating. Bill Buckley tackled every single topic you could imagine; from hard science to law, to art, to racism, to geo-politics. One show might focus on drug addiction, another might be a debate on immigration, while another would discuss films and other art.
My only complaint was that I always got the feeling that it needed to be an hour long show. Or at the very least 45 minutes.
And like the other reviewer said Bill Buckley may be conservative, but he's a mellow kind of conservative. He doesn't get all bent out of shape when people disagree with him, because he knows he's right and respects any clever attempt to disprove his well learned positions. Seeing him smile during an exchange always put a smile on my face.
Regrettably the same cannot be said for many of his guests, such as the notorious Ira Glasser, whose argumentative style in public debates boils down shouting down the opposition (see the Firing Line debate on Legal and Illegal Immigration, moderated by Michael Kinsington). Other guests included think tank heads, academicians, expert lawyers researching law, and a number of artists from both sides of the political spectrum.
If you ever wanted to get to the truth or to the heart of an issue, or to at least hear both sides in a well constructed, sometimes light hearted, but always informative debate, then you should do yourself a favor and go seek out past shows.
The show format is essentially talking heads. It's one of those "boring" shows that deals with serious issues affecting the United States and the world at large. But, if you want a real understanding of how today's hot topics have evolved, by that I mean issues like abortion, the 2nd ammendment, smut in films and other public media, or even online information, then Firing Line might be a good place to start.
I wish Bill Buckley were still doing the show, but even I know that despite his expansive knowledge, he is, afterall, mortal, and must rest.
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