An insider's view of the most successful show in the history of TV, 60 Minutes.
The most popular TV show in America isn't American Idol, and it's not Survivor. Month in, month out, the most–watched program in America is 60 Minutes, drawing a staggering 25 million viewers in an average week.
For its entire 34–year history, 60 Minutes was the brainchild (and personal fiefdom) of Don Hewitt, the take–no–prisoners visionary who hustled the show into being and kept it afloat with a mixture of chutzpah, tough talk, scheming, and journalistic savvy. But now that Hewitt is 80 and grudgingly considering retirement, the show's direction is increasingly up for grabs, and the transition will surely be marked by some serious fireworks.
As author David Blum provides a fly–on–the–wall perspective on the show's upheavals, he'll also trace its past; although the show has aired some 5,000 pieces and has made household names of Mike Wallace, Ed Bradley, Leslie Stahl, and Morley Safer, much of the backstage story––the passionate pursuit of stories, the behind–the–scenes wrangling, and the stars' prima donnish behavior––has gone untold. With full access to the producers, stars, and executives, Blum will give readers an unprecedented view of the personalities and events that have shaped 60 Minutes – and a new perspective on how current events become news.
60 Minutes has been on the air nearly 40 years, and as readers near the end of this behind-the-scenes history of the stalwart newsmagazine, they might feel as if they've been reading about it just as long. Blum writes for Vanity Fair, the Wall Street Journal and other national publications, and (perhaps unintentionally) captures the famished, breathless tone of a celebrity-driven feature story. Using interviews and the numerous books, articles and memoirs about the show and its correspondents, Blum tells the epic tale. Don Hewitt began as a merchant marine reporter, came to CBS News and launched his dream show as part of the new Tuesday night lineup in September 1968. Although initial critical response was positive, ratings remained poor while the show struggled to establish its identity. By the mid-'70s, however, the producers' investigative journalism had grabbed viewers' attention, and as the audience grew, so did the cast. Blum weaves backstories about Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace (the original front-of-camera team) with relentless administrative squabbles between Hewitt and network honchos, and the cycles of professional ambition and personal egotism are regular and monotonous. Blum attempts to give shape to the ongoing drama of outsized personalities (many come off as predictably power hungry or disingenuously careerist), but the energy dissipates long before book's end. Photos.