Don Hewitt: 90 Minutes on 60 Minutes

By Turner, Richard | Newsweek, May 11, 1998 | Go to article overview

Don Hewitt: 90 Minutes on 60 Minutes


Turner, Richard, Newsweek


An insider's tour of the '60 Minutes' kitchen

THEY'RE OLD. THEY TALK TOO MUCH. They bicker. And if they're a little pompous-well, who's more entitled? It's easy to forget that "60 Minutes," oblivious to the tabloid landscape around it, delivers serious news to a true mass market more than any newspaper, magazine or TV show-and it's been doing it for 30 years. "60 Minutes" is an entertainment show, too: five actor-correspondents doing battle with the forces of evil every Sunday night. You could argue that Mike Wallace, who turns 80 this week, is the ultimate television star.

But the show is the creation of its 75-year-old executive producer, and amid all these superlatives, it would have been easy for the creators of a new PBS documentary, "Don Hewitt: 90 Minutes on 60 Minutes," to produce a worshipful tribute to him, with a reverential anthology of old clips. Thankfully, filmmaker Susan Steinberg instead decided to focus on the process of putting the show together, and she got unprecedented access to do so. What results is a fascinating inside look at famous egos going about the mundane details of their work, fussing and fighting all the way.

She does the requisite profiling of Hewitt, who in 50 years at CBS has produced innumerable TV-defining events like the first Kennedy-Nixon debate. But the most dramatic scenes portray the dreaded screenings, when Hewitt sees a segment for the first time. After Wallace screens a piece on Ecuador that Hewitt doesn't like, they rave at each other for a while. …

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