Primetime is a general-interest American news magazine show which debuted on ABC in 1989 with co-hosts Sam Donaldson and Diane Sawyer and originally had the title Primetime Live. Originally, the program was aired live on the ABC network and featured a live studio audience. The first interviews included Roseanne Barr and a piece on a Middle East hostage crisis reported by Chris Wallace. Donaldson and Sawyer would allow audience members to comment on the program and ask questions of the guests, who were usually interviewed live via satellite or in studio, a practice that resulted in many technical difficulties and easy satirization on Saturday Night Live. Internal conflicts between Sawyer and Donaldson later led them to be separated, and the audience eliminated. However, the program has always had some live elements when broadcast as Primetime Live, generally consisting of Donaldson reading the opening remarks of packaged stories and the opening title as Primetime... LIVE!. Over time, live interviews were de-emphasized and hidden camera investigations began to occupy more of the schedule. One hidden camera investigation, of Food Lion, backfired on ABC when Food Lion sued. Food Lion did not claim that the report was incorrect, but rather that the report was produced under deceptive pretenses, with ABC employees hired by Food Lion wearing hidden cameras filming other Food Lion employees without following proper notification procedures. A jury awarded Food Lion $5.5 million, but later appeals by ABC to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals resulted in the damages reduced to $2.
In 1998, ABC, in an effort to consolidate all of their newsmagazines, canceled Primetime Live and combined it with ABC's other well-known newsmagazine, 20/20. The move was made to compete more effectively with NBC's Dateline, which ran multiple nights of the week. In 2000, however, ABC relauched the program. It was renamed Primetime Thursday with Charles Gibson replacing Donaldson. Beginning in the 2004-2005 season, the show was known once again as Primetime Live, and announcements were made live in the Eastern Time Zone. Its pair of co-hosts from the previous season, Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer, was replaced by the team of Sawyer, Chris Cuomo, Cynthia McFadden and John Quiñones. Beginning with the July 21, 2005, broadcast, the show's title has been Primetime. While Prime Time has never been a serious newsmagazine in the style of 60 Minutes, it has participated in the general trend of newsmagazines doing more tabloid programming. For example, it recently had an exclusive interview with Corey Clark, an American Idol contestant who allegedly had a sexual affair with judge Paula Abdul. ABC has reduced Primetime to sporadic news specials beginning this fall season. The show will most likely gain a regular time slot if a new drama gets cancelled and is listed on ABC.com as a midseason replacement.
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There is no Next Episode of Primetime planned.