After 34 years, the curtain will fall on “The McLaughlin Group” after this week’s installment.
John McLaughlin, creator and host of the public affairs TV staple, died at age 89 on Wednesday. The show is so well-established that it likely could have transitioned with a new moderator at the helm.
But McLaughlin made his wishes known about the show’s future five years ago when he received an offer from Anschutz Media Group to buy the franchise, according to John Roberts, a senior producer for “McLaughlin Group.”
Anschutz’s lucrative offer called for McLaughlin retire within two years after grooming a successor as moderator of the four-person panel debating political headlines and issues of the day.
“We talked about it at some length,” Roberts told Variety, noting McLaughlin ultimately passed on the deal. “John finally said ‘What would be so wrong if when I finish up I just turn the lights out?’”
Roberts said McLaughlin noted at the time that fellow conservative TV commentator William F. Buckley decided to bring “Firing Line” to a close after his retirement as host in 1999. McLaughlin missed his first episode of his show only last week as his health failed.
The current “McLaughlin Group” panel — consisting of Pat Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, Clarence Page and Tom Rogan — is expected to tape one more half-hour on Friday in Washington, D.C., Roberts said. There are plans down the road for an hourlong retrospective episode but those details are still being firmed up. “McLaughlin Group” has been distributed across the PBS network by WTTW-TV Chicago.
Roberts observed that McLaughlin’s run beginning in 1982 makes him TV’s longest-serving single host of a talk show in TV history. McLaughlin surpassed by a few months the mark previously held by Buckley with his 34 years on “Firing Line.”
“Given how rapidly the world is changing, I’m not sure that’s something that anyone will be able to accomplish again,” Roberts said.