Barbara’s List: What Makes a Person ‘Most Fascinating’?

Barbara Walters with the 'Jersey Shore' Cast (Photo: ABC News)

Barbara Walters with the 'Jersey Shore' Cast (Photo: ABC News)

How many fascinating people can a single year produce?

If you’re Barbara Walters, the answer is 10. If you’re Matt Lauer, it’s six. Ten is the number of people to be profiled on the 18th annual edition of ‘Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People,‘ airing Thursday, Dec. 9, at 10 p.m./9c on ABC. Eight of the 10 names were just announced (the remaining two will presumably remain a secret until they can be unveiled on the show as a surprise).

The eight we know are: Sandra Bullock, on the list by virtue of her headline-making divorce from cheating hubby Jesse James; Kate Middleton, now engaged to Prince William; Justin Bieber; LeBron James; Betty White; Sarah Palin (for the second year in a row); Jennifer Lopez, for snagging a job as a judge on ‘American Idol‘; and the cast of ‘Jersey Shore,‘ which makes this list actually more than eight persons, though Walters and her producers list them as one.

Our guess for the missing two: Barack and Michelle Obama, since Walters just interviewed them both for a post-Thanksgiving Day special.

But compare that list to Lauer’s. His was unveiled the day after Thanksgiving in his annual ‘People of the Year‘ special on NBC. His list intersected with Walters’ list only once – with LeBron James. Lauer also went with: Brandon Fisher, whose Pennsylvania mine-drilling company helped engineer the rescue of the Chilean miners; James Jones, the Florida dad who boarded a schoolbus to berate bullies who were picking on his daughter, making Jones a hero to some; Sharif el-Gamal, the developer of the controversial Islamic Center planned for a site near Ground Zero in New York; Kim Kardashian, for – what? Reality show stardom?; and Justin Timberlake, presumably for his critically acclaimed role in the Facebook movie ‘The Social Network.

So what makes a “Most Fascinating Person of the Year”? Scandals? Heroics? Divorces? Reality TV?

In some ways, Walters herself deserves to be profiled on such a show one of these days, by virtue of her own tireless work ethic. At age 81, she’s still doing these highly rated end-of-year specials, interviewing presidents and first ladies, and presiding over ‘The View,‘ which had its usual year of headline-making tantrums and dramatic moments.

Add the Walters and Lauer lists together and you get 16 “most fascinating” people (including, for the sake of argument, the multiple persons from ‘Jersey Shore’).

Sixteen? Is that all? Or is it too many? Who have Matt and Barbara left out? Who would you choose?

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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