A New Man in the Armchair

After Alistair Cooke's long tenure, Russell Baker takes over this ^ week as host of Masterpiece Theatre

The news came as a cultural shock. After nearly 22 years and some 800 programs, during which he had occupied 65 different armchairs in clubby library sets, Alistair Cooke, 84, was retiring as host of Masterpiece Theatre. For millions of PBS viewers, Cooke was like the guest they always hoped to meet at a party -- charming, informed but never overbearing as he steered them urbanely through such series as Upstairs, Downstairs, I, Claudius and The Jewel in the Crown, discoursing on Edwardian manners, the English public school or life in the sunlit empire.

Who could possibly replace such an institution?...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Get TIME the way you want it

  • One Week Digital Pass — $4.99
  • Monthly Pay-As-You-Go DIGITAL ACCESS$2.99
  • One Year ALL ACCESSJust $30!   Best Deal!
    Print Magazine + Digital Edition + Subscriber-only Content on TIME.com

Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!