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Prince Andrew following the announcement of the death of his father

The most dramatic television interviews of all time

From Prince Andrew's 'car crash interview' to Michael Jackson's hotly-anticipated chat with Oprah, these historic television interviews have had long-lasting implications.

Image Credit: Associated Press / Alamy Stock Photo | Above: Prince Andrew attends Sunday service at the Royal Chapel of All Saints at Royal Lodge, Windsor, following the death announcement of his father, Prince Philip, on 11th April 2021

Nothing delivers television drama quite like an interview. Much-anticipated TV interviews have raked in viewing figures that rival moon landings, royal weddings and World Cup finals.

These jaw-dropping sit-downs have not only drawn eyeballs to TV sets but have also caused real-world consequences that left behind historical legacies.

Here are five of the most dramatic game-changing interviews of all time:

1. Prince Andrew and Emily Maitlis – 2019

In August 2019, disgraced American financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein killed himself in a New York prison as he awaited trial on sex trafficking charges.

Three months later, Prince Andrew sat down with BBC journalist Emily Maitlis to discuss his relationship with Epstein. The hour-long Newsnight interview did not go well for the Duke of York.

Later described as 'disastrous', the car crash interview quite literally changed everything for the Duke. Whilst he vehemently denied any of the accusations levied against him about Epstein, he said he did not regret his friendship with the disgraced financier.

He also offered a bizarre medical explanation – his inability to sweat due to an adrenaline overdose during the Falklands War - to prove he didn’t sexually assault a 17-year-old girl back in the early 2000s.

In the wake of the interview, Prince Andrew was stripped of his military titles, royal patronages and HRH title and was no longer considered a working royal.

2. Richard Nixon and David Frost - 1977

In the wake of the Watergate scandal in 1974, Richard Nixon became the first president in US history to resign.

His successor to the White House, Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon and the American public was left with a sense of unfinished business as the ex-president escaped any judicial prosecution for his abuses of power.

Then, in 1977, British journalist and TV host David Frost secured the rights to an exclusive set of interviews with Nixon. After years of denying involvement in the Watergate coverup, this was the ideal opportunity for Nixon to restore his damaged reputation, with his staff believing Frost was the perfect ‘soft’ interviewer to keep things light. They couldn’t have been more wrong.

What followed was the most famous apology in television interview history with Nixon admitting he’d ‘let the American people down’, and that he’d now have ‘to carry that burden’ for the rest of his life.

The dramatic confrontation between Nixon and Frost is often considered the end of deference with the British journalist effectively creating the modern interview. The meeting was later adapted into a play before Hollywood turned it into the movie Frost/Nixon in 2008.

2. Princess Diana and Martin Bashir – 1995

It was the interview heard around the world that shook the Royal Family to the core and nearly caused a constitutional crisis.

Princess Diana’s sit down with journalist Martin Bashir, titled ‘An Interview with HRH The Princess of Wales’ was recorded in Kensington Palace for the BBC documentary series Panorama. When it aired on 20th November 1995, nearly 23 million people in the UK tuned in to watch, making it one of the most-watched TV programmes in British history.

The Princess spoke candidly about her marriage to the then-Prince Charles and his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles, her mental health struggles as well as her battle with bulimia. The explosive interview sent shockwaves across the world and proved to be the final blow in Diana and Charles’ marriage, with the pair divorcing the following year.

To this day, the interview remains one of the most talked about moments in television history and was recently back in the news after an independent inquiry concluded that Bashir had used deceitful methods to obtain the interview. As such, the BBC declared it would never air the interview again nor would they license it to any other broadcaster.

3. The Duke of Edinburgh and Richard Dimbleby - 1961

Three decades before Diana’s infamous Panorama special, the Duke of Edinburgh appeared on the same programme with much less controversy. Nonetheless, the 1961 interview was still a historic occasion as it was the first time any member of the Royal Family had given an interview on TV.

The Duke sat down with journalist and broadcaster Richard Dimbleby to discuss the Commonwealth Technical Training Week, an initiative encouraging the training of skilled workers for the modern labour force.

The interview was a big leap towards modernising the Royal Family.

4. Michael Jackson and Oprah Winfrey - 1993

When Oprah sat down for an interview with the 'King of Pop' Michael Jackson in 1993, it turned out to be the most-watched television interview in history. Around 62 million Americans tuned in to watch it live, with a further 28 million tuning in from around the world.

Coming live from the singer’s Neverland Ranch in California, it was Jackson’s first interview in 14 years. In those intervening years, huge fascination had grown around the world’s most famous pop star with his changing appearance and unusual behaviour generating some bizarre headlines.

Did he bleach his skin? Did he really sleep in an oxygen chamber to stay eternally young? Did he buy the Elephant Man’s remains? Those were just some of the questions people wanted to know but Jackson had refused to answer any of them until his chat with Oprah.

During their talk, he revealed to the public for the first time that he suffered from vitiligo, a long-term condition where pale patches appear on the skin. He also admitted to two plastic surgery procedures, including a nose job, and that growing up he was abused by his father.

Six months after the interview, the first allegations against Jackson of child sexual abuse emerged.

5. Monica Lewinsky and Barbara Walters – 1999

It was the affair that nearly toppled a presidency and led to one of the most infamous one-liners in political history - ‘I did not have sexual relations with that woman’.

Those words were spoken by US President Bill Clinton in January 1998 as he vehemently denied having an 18-month affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky from 1995 to 1997. By the summer of 1998, the president was backtracking on those words and apologising to the American people. Impeachment followed but Clinton was acquitted.

In March 1999, Lewinsky got to have her say on the sex scandal that had gripped the nation, sitting down with veteran journalist Barbara Walters. During the interview, Lewinsky dropped several surprising revelations about the affair whilst also publicly apologising for her part in it.

Over 70 million people across America tuned in to watch the interview, the highest rating ever for a US news programme.