David Paradine Frost was somewhat of a precursor to Jon Stewart. A TV phenom in Britain during the 1960s, Frost had an entertaining weekly show of satire towards the Establishment called That Was the Week That Was. In 1975, Frost, then a successful businessman whose television stardom itself had faded, embarked on a journalistic adventure of a lifetime, to interview Richard Nixon.
Disgraced and debt-ridden, Nixon did not want any of the well-known U.S. journalists as Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley to interview him. Frost made Nixon an offer ($500,000 for four shows), and the president agreed. “Nixon can, of course, refuse to answer questions,” Frost mused, “But then I am able to film his refusing to answer.” The tapings were done north of San Clemente, California from 23rd March to 20th April 1977 in the home of a Nixon friend and ran over 12 days, and 28 hours of tapes.
For both parties, the interviews were a success. It covered a full range of topics from Nixon’s presidency, and although after the interviews, 72% of those who watched still believed Nixon was guilty of Watergate, the ex-president redeemed himself as a great statesman who accomplished many diplomatic achievements. As for Frost, it gave him international exposure, and hefty profits.
After the Nixon interview, Frost went on to interview seven more American presidents and six British prime ministers. He was knighted in December 1992, and currently hosts the Al Jazeera English program, Frost Over the World. In 2006, a play about the interviews – titled Frost/ Nixon – premiered; it was written by Peter Morgan.