Hot Seat (talk show)

Hot Seat was a syndicated politically orientated, though often satirical and comedic, television talk-show that began in the early 1980s, hosted by conservative commentator Wally George. It was shot in the studios of KDOC, a UHF television station licensed to (and, at the time, having their studios in) Anaheim, California.

George hosted the show sitting behind a desk and wearing a red, white, and blue necktie, and his completely white hair in a curious comb over. Behind him was a photo of a space shuttle launching with the caption that read, "USA Is #1."

Originally only seen locally, the show gained national attention in 1983 when a self-proclaimed pacifist named Blase Bonpane, who was discussing his opposition of the U.S. invasion of Grenada, suddenly erupted in anger over George's taunts, flipped over the host's desk and stormed off the show. A clip of the altercation aired on national news programs, and attracted attention from program directors at TV stations nationwide, leading to syndication.

George engaged guests whom he called "ludicrous liberal lunatics" and "fascist fanatics," including 1960s drug guru Dr. Timothy Leary and Tom Metzger, a white supremacist leader who was a particular target of George's ire. In many ways, Hot Seat inspired and was the precursor of other similar shows hosted by Morton Downey, Jr. and Jerry Springer. Downey actually appeared on Hot Seat on one occasion; he and George traded barbs numerous times over items ranging from who was a true conservative to the nature of the audience before Downey was tackled by police.

At the height of its popularity in the mid- and late-1980s, fans of the show would wait for several hours to get a choice spot among the studio's 80 audience seats, where they waved U.S. flags and chanted, "Wal-ly! Wal-ly!" on cue. This ever increasing circus atmosphere became an integral part of the show's appeal; for instance, when Wally yelled "9-9-9", the fans in the studio would holler back "FIVE THOUSAND!" (a reference to the show's ticket line, 999-5000). Fans would often cheer Wally on and boo his guests, as if they were at a sporting event.

David Kennedy was the co-host for Hot Seat, seated to George's right. Kennedy's persona was extremely mild-mannered, the polar opposite of George's, effectively acting as a straight man. In fact, Kennedy would often sit calmly and nearly mute throughout an entire show while hystrionics took place all around him.

George called his delivery "combat TV," a phrase he used in his autobiography published in 1999. Johnny Carson, referring to the show's choreographed hysteria, once called George the William F. Buckley of the cockfighting set. But George drew most of his ideas and interviewing style from a 1960s radio and TV host named Joe Pyne.

In the late 1990s, George fell ill, and KDOC showed reruns of past shows hosted by an increasingly frail-looking, calmer and face-lifted George. After George died in 2003, KDOC stopped showing reruns altogether except for a retrospective/tribute on the Friday of the anniversary week of Wally George's passing. It has not been seen since, although YouTube has an extensive archive of Hot Seat clips.

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