Colossal work

David Frost’s passing will leave a void in the field of television broadcasting. In a career that spanned over 50 years, Frost left his distinct imprint on the broadcasting industry, not just as a presenter and interviewer but as an entrepreneur as well. The sheer variety and volume of his work was astounding. Frost entered Indian homes in the 1980s when his presentation of the popular Guinness Book of World Records was televised on Doordarshan. Several imitations of this programme followed but few captured Frost’s unique connection with his viewers.

Much before this, Frost was a household name in Britain, having impressed audiences in the 1960s with his hosting of ‘That Was The Week That Was,’ ‘Saturday with Frost,’ ‘Sunday with Frost’ and the ‘Frost Report.’ He quickly became a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. However, it was his interview of Richard Nixon, two years after the US president resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, which propelled Frost to superstardom. The interview was deceptively easy-going at first. Then Frost went for the kill and by the end of the interview, Nixon found himself apologising to Americans for his role in the Watergate affair. Nixon’s resignation and the pardon he was extended by his successor Gerald Ford enabled him to escape a judicial trial. For many Americans, Frost’s questioning of Nixon and the apology he forced out of the disgraced former president was a substitute of sorts for the judicial trial that never happened.

Although several confessional interviews have appeared on television since, few have matched the Frost-Nixon encounter. Frost will go down in history as having pioneered and perfected his ‘trial on television’ style of interviewing. While critics accused him of treating his interviewees with kids’ gloves, it would be more apt to say that Frost’s was a coaxing rather than a confrontational style. And it yielded results.

Not surprisingly, Frost was the envy of a generation of journalists having interviewed consecutively not only six British prime ministers but also, seven American presidents who held office between 1969 and 2008, as well as world leaders like Indira, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Statesmen, saints and sinners vied for the opportunity to be on ‘Breakfast with Frost.’  Frost played a defining role in the evolution of television as a broadcast and entertainment medium, especially in its early decades.  This giant of the small screen will be sorely missed.

Comments (+)