The Phil Donahue Show
|The Phil Donahue Show|
|Created by||Phil Donahue|
|Presented by||Phil Donahue|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||5,515|
|Location(s)||Dayton, Ohio (1967–1974)
Chicago, Illinois (1974–1985)
New York City (1985–1996)
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original network||WLWD (1967–1970)
First-run syndication (1970–1996)
|Original release||November 6, 1967– September 13, 1996|
The Phil Donahue Show, also known as Donahue, is an American television talk show hosted by Phil Donahue that ran for 26 years on national television. Its run was preceded by three years of local broadcast in Dayton, Ohio, and it was broadcast nationwide between 1970 and 1996.
In 1967, Phil Donahue left his positions as news reporter and interviewer at WHIO radio and television in Dayton and became the host of a new television program, Phil Donahue Show on WLWD (now WDTN), also in Dayton. His new program replaced The Johnny Gilbert Show, when Gilbert left on short notice for Los Angeles for a hosting job. On November 6, 1967, Donahue hosted his first guest, atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair. Though he would later call her message of atheism "very important," he also stated she was rather unpleasant and that, off-camera, she mocked him for being Catholic.
Initially, the program was shown only on other stations owned by the Crosley Broadcasting Corporation (which would later take the name of its parent Avco Company), which also owned WLWD. But, on January 5, 1970, The Donahue Show entered nationwide syndication.
Donahue relocated the show's home base to Chicago in 1974, first housing it at then-independent station WGN-TV. Around this time the show's popularity increased, and in the process it became a national phenomenon. When the Avco Company divested their broadcasting properties in 1976, Multimedia Inc. assumed production and syndication of the program, which was now known as simply Donahue. In 1982, Donahue moved the show to CBS-owned WBBM-TV for its final years based in Chicago and the Midwest.
In 1984, Donahue introduced many viewers to hip-hop culture for the first time, as a program featured breakdancing for the first time on national television, accompanied by a performance from the hip hop group UTFO. In 1985, Donahue left Chicago for New York City and began recording in Studio 8-G at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, the home of his New York affiliate WNBC-TV. Prior to the move, a month-long series of commercials heralded the move, and NBC's late-night talk host David Letterman would use portions of his national program counting down the days to Donahue's move with a huge calendar in his studio. One of the most talked-about incidents in Donahue's history came on January 21, 1985, soon after the show moved to New York. On this day's program, seven members of the audience appeared to faint during the broadcast, which was seen live in New York. Donahue, fearing the fainting was caused by both anxiety at being on television and an overheated studio, eventually cleared the studio of audience members and then resumed the show. It turned out the fainting "spell" was cooked up by media hoaxer Alan Abel in what Abel said was a protest against what he termed as poor-quality television.
In 1992, Donahue celebrated the 25th anniversary of his local and national program with a NBC special produced at the Ed Sullivan Theater in New York, in which he was lauded by his talk-show peers. Ironically, in many corners, he was seen as having been bypassed both by Oprah Winfrey, whose own hugely successful national show was based in Donahue's former Chicago home base; and Sally Jessy Raphael, whose own talk show was distributed by Donahue's syndicator, Multimedia.
The end of Donahue
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The talk show field became increasingly saturated as the 1990s progressed, leading to a decline in ratings. The show also lost support after Donahue expressed his feelings regarding the first Gulf War. In the fall of 1995, ABC-owned KGO-TV in San Francisco dropped Donahue after carrying it for several years and, weeks later, New York's WNBC-TV also canceled it. Donahue was also evicted from its Rockefeller Plaza home, and relocated to new studios in Manhattan. Many other stations, such as KTRK-TV (another ABC O&O) in Houston, and KYW-TV in Philadelphia either began dropping Donahue or moving it to late-night and early-morning time slots, causing a further loss of viewers. Donahue never aired on another station in New York or San Francisco, two of the largest U.S. television markets.
After 29 years (26 of which in syndication) and nearly 7,000 shows, the final episode aired on September 13, 1996, culminating in what remains to be the longest continuous run of any syndicated talk show in U.S. television history.
Donahue was also broadcast in the UK on the ITV Night time line up in the late 1980s and early 90s, where it became cult viewing. After its success, Donahue made several shows in Britain featuring some well-known celebrities from the country as guests, recorded mostly in London but notably one programme recorded in Manchester, which had several members of the cast from the American sit-com Cheers and the Manchester-based soap opera Coronation Street. Thames Television also broadcast a number of episodes during daytime for the London area only.
- TV Guide Names Top 50 Shows
- Entertainment Weekly: "Donahue Dawns on Daytime", November 8, 1996.
- Handbook of Texas Online: Madalyn Murray O'Hair (Note: this article mentioned that Donahue's show started in 1963, with Madalyn as guest.)
- Phil Donahue (2006). Godless in America (Documentary).
- Ny Station Removes ‘Donahue’; August 18, 1995; The Spokesman-Review