News & Politics

PBS to Reboot Buckley's 'Firing Line' With Activist and Author Margaret Hoover

William F. Buckley, Jr., Conservative Party candidate running for the office of Mayor of New York City, is shown outside the Overseas Press Club on Oct. 20, 1965. (AP Photo)

PBS announced that it will revive the long-running political show “Firing Line” beginning in June.

The original show ran from 1966 to 1999 and was hosted by conservative icon Bill Buckley. Buckley faced off with the major politicians and intellectuals of the 20th century, oftentimes gleefully skewering liberals for wrong-headed ideas. But no matter the ideology of his guest, Buckley’s show was marked by a civility that is painfully absent in today’s political climate.

Deadline:

Produced by WNET/Thirteen, the weekly series will bring together the brightest minds and freshest voices from across the political spectrum to engage in a contest of ideas about important issues confronting our nation, PBS said. Firing Linewith Margaret Hoover will launch at 10 AM Saturday, June 2, on New York’s Thirteen, which will air the first three episodes before the series bows on PBS stations nationwide.

The pubcaster said the show will maintain the character of the original Buckley-fronted series, providing a platform that is diligent in its commitment to a balanced exchange of opinion. The series, PBS notes, comes at a time when meaningful discourse in needed more than ever.

“Our mission is to renew the tradition of Firing Line for a new generation, offering a rigorous exchange of opinion with fresh voices addressing the challenges facing our democracy,” said Hoover, whose political analysis is seen on CNN and ABC’s The View.

PBS said that in order to frame the issues and give context to the discussion, the show will be complemented by archival footage from the original Firing Line series, which broadcast more than 1,500 episodes during its 33-year run.

Hoover, who is a strong believer in individualism and individual liberty, is probably the best choice to host the series. If the goal of PBS is to emulate Buckley’s tolerance for opposing viewpoints, Hoover is as good as anyone and has vast TV experience that she will bring to the role as host.

But will PBS be able to find liberal guests who won’t scream at her?

In truth, Hoover’s bona fides for tolerance are well known, as she has been an advocate for gay rights for the past decade.  But intellectually, she is a woman of the right — a traditional conservative whose beliefs are based on the necessity of individual liberty for all.

PBS is demonstrating its lack of faith in the show by absolutely burying it on Saturday morning. No matter. Political junkies are likely to record the show no matter what time it’s broadcast, and PBS is hoping enough of us tune in to justify the reboot.