David Frost in the famous Nixon interview. [screen capture YouTube]

David Frost in the famous Nixon interview.
[screen capture YouTube]

THE AMAZING man we all came to know through television, Sir David Frost, passed this weekend. His career was a long and winding road in the most incredible sense. David Frost put the active in activist journalist and became one of the most formidable interviewers in television history.

Somehow it seems fitting that a comedian would be the one to get the interview with Richard M. Nixon that would lead him to revealing himself on Watergate.

The Daily Beast on the remarkable evolution of David Frost:

He burst upon British television like a fiery tribune of the people, conducting interviews live and with a studio audience””something never done before””five nights a week at primetime from a London broadcaster, Rediffusion.

[...] Propelled to almost overnight stardom by That Was The Week (itself one of the inspirations for Saturday Night Live) Frost felt that satire would restrict him, even though the show and his material marked a revolution in its lack of respect for and deference to the BBC’s previously timid rules of political coverage. He also encountered hostility among the corporation’s “serious” broadcasters who felt strongly that television journalism should not be “entertainment” and that Frost was, in manner and cast of mind, an entertainer.

… Frost, on the other hand, realized that television journalism, rid of pomp and ready to pose questions framed not by respectful editors but informed by a sense of how a vox pop audience would ask them, could become a gripping new public forum. He deliberately took a year off from television and enlisted a small band of journalists, including me, to work out the form of the show he would anchor, called simply (and grandly) The Frost Programme.

The Frost Programme became a showcase that would entrap many an arrogant guest unsuspecting of his techniques and believing they could escape them. As Clive Irving writes on the Daily Beast: Many of these were responding to what seemed an almost gladiatorial challenge, as Frost’s instinct for the sudden, revealing question would strike home and leave blood on the floor.

A snippet of the interview that David Frost did with Richard M. Nixon. The entire interview is gobsmacking, riveting and horrifying all at once.

It became a feature film with the journalist getting top billing over the president, which could only happen because David Frost was that journalist. Frost/Nixon starred Frank Langella as Nixon, and Michael Sheen as David Frost. It’s worth seeing if you haven’t.