Phil Donahue's daytime syndicated talk show was a breath of fresh air when it premiered in 1970 that was informed and not to mention tackling controversial issues that were considered taboo for television at that time. At the time "Donahue" premiered the daytime television landscape was filled with candy coated talk show hosts ranging from "Merv Griffin", to "Mike Douglas", "Dinah Shore", "John Davidson",and "Dick Cavett". Not to mention an array of children's programming, daytime game shows and weekday serials(daytime soap operas) that basically filled the daytime television line-up during the 1970's and 1980's. Most of the topics "Donahue" had were very controversial with the straight up hard in-your- face-questions and open dialogue with his guests and his studio audience not to mention the important topics that many people were interested in that became the discussion of the day. Along with the hard questions and tough answers "Donahue" would walk around with his microphone so that the audience can ask questions to the guests. Sometimes intense and sometimes straight to the point that made this daytime talk show stand out from the competition.
Some of the topics that "Donahue" discussed ranged from "Missing Children",to "Suicide","Homosexuality","The Adult Film Industry","Drug Addiction","Abortions","Civil Rights","Polygamy",to "Interracial Marriage", "Same Sex Marriage","Bigotry",and so forth that were not only controversial but at the time too intense for television but the man knew how to get his guests to answer the tough questions and get the answers with the most important dialogue his audience wanted to hear and more. No matter how his style of questioning was to his guests "Donahue" set the bar for what was to come and his daytime talk show surpass all expectations.
His guests ranging from top-name celebrities like Sammy Davis, Jr., to Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Burt Reynolds, John Wayne, to Lucille Ball, Muhammad Ali, Dolly Parton, Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, to Ann-Margret, Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, Dick and Tom Smothers, to Carroll O'Connor, Audrey Hepburn,Dick Clark, and Gore Vidal not to mention guest journalists like Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Mike Wallace, Jane Pauley, Connie Chung, Lesley Stahl, Barbara Walters, to Geraldo Rivera and Morton Downey,Jr. not to mention the founder and creator of Turner Broadcasting and CNN's own Ted Turner. Future talk show hosts themselves like Arsenio Hall, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, Jay Leno,and Oprah Winfrey were some of his guests. One episode had the entire family of the "Jacksons" too. And there were the controversial guests that included Minister Louis Farrakhan, Dick Gregory, political activists Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Novelists Ayn Rand, and Jacqueline Susann and gossip columnist Rona Barrett. One episode had adult film stars Ron Jeremy, Annette Haven, Nina Hartley, Vanessa Del Rio, Georgina Spelvin, and Jamie Gillis. Even having U.S. Presidents come as guests ranging from Richard Nixon, to Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, George W. Bush and future Presidential candidates at the time Bill Clinton and Al Gore for there 1992 elections. And more controversial subject including one episode that involved the Rodney King incident in Los Angeles that pushed the envelope not to mention the trial of "O.J. Simpson" in a explicit filled 1994 episode.
The phenomenal success of "Donahue" won 12 Emmys for Outstanding Talk Show and was nominated for an impressive 18 Emmys during its astounding 26-year-run. When the "Donahue" show ended its run on September 13,1996 it paved the way for Oprah Winfrey, Sally Jessy Rapheal and a host of others that would follow. And Phil Donahue made that possible. Thank you.