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Barbara Walters retired, but ’10 Most Fascinating’ lives on: Her never-fail celebrity formula

Barbara Walters addresses an audience at the John F. Kennedy School of Government on the campus of Harvard University.  (Steven Senne/AP)
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Surprise! Barbara Walters is back less than a year after she said goodbye. The news anchor legend may be technically “retired,” but did you really think she’d let a December go by without a “10 Most Fascinating People” special? ABC announced Tuesday that Walters, 85, will return for another round of interviews with the people she deems the most intriguing of 2014.

“I know we said last year was our last, but there are just too many fascinating people out there,” Walters said in an announcement. “And you never pass up the opportunity to interview Oprah, Neil, Chelsea, or Scarlett.” (That would be Neil Patrick Harris, Chelsea Handler and Scarlett Johansson — but of course you know that.)

Why bring it back? This line in ABC’s release provides a clue: “Since its first airing in 1993, ‘Barbara Walters Presents: The 10 Most Fascinating People’ has consistently been one of the highest rated specials of the year,” the release stated. Enough said.

As for the Fascinators, the other six will be announced at a later date — with the most fascinating traditionally unveiled at the end of the show. But so far, the preliminary list tracks closely with with Walters’s previous lineups, which typically feature one of each category from the A-list pop-culture sphere:

Media giant: Oprah fills this slot. Unclear exactly how the proprietor of the OWN network fascinated us more this year than usual, but that’s fine. Past examples: Robin Roberts, Glenn Beck.

Outspoken controversy magnet: That would be Handler, the blunt-spoken talk show host who left E! in a blaze of glory for Netflix. Past examples: Miley Cyrus, Seth MacFarlane.

Network comrade in need of a plug: Neil Patrick Harris will host the Academy Awards next year, which just so happen to air on ABC. (He also just wrapped “How I Met Your Mother” and stars in “Gone Girl,” but still — it’s all about the synergy here.) Past examples: Patrick Dempsey of “Grey’s Anatomy,” Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet of “Modern Family.”

Perpetual ‘It Girl’: Sure, we guess ScarJo had some new movies recently, not to mention a new baby — but she’s always in the news for one reason or another. Past examples: Jennifer Lopez, Betty White.

You can try to guess the back six, keeping in mind the other categories she draws from: Marquee politician (past years: Hillary Clinton, Herman Cain); reality TV superstar (Kate Gosselin, Kim Kardashian); charismatic athlete (Michael Phelps, Derek Jeter); precocious tot (Honey Boo Boo, Prince George); pop diva (Lady Gaga, Katy Perry); miscellaneous royal (Prince Harry, Camilla Parker Bowles).

ABC promises all will be revealed soon: The special airs on Dec. 14.

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