talk shows

talk shows
   The original talk shows involved the use of a seasoned presenter interviewing guests before an audience. The guests would promote books, films or music or be otherwise involved in the public eye. Prominent examples included the Parkinson show and Wogan, the latter occupying a key early evening slot several times a week. While this format has been maintained (when launched, Channel 5 used comedian Jack Docherty in this role), a new genre has emerged where the guests are no longer celebrities but members of the public who are chaperoned through a controversial subject area. The personal experiences of the contributors are exploited, sometimes in a confrontational fashion such as when victims of burglaries discuss the issue of theft from houses with burglars, and provide the fulcrum of the shows. Examples of such programmes which have occupied the mid-morning slot on both major terrestrial channels include Kilroy (hosted by ex-MP Robert Kilroy-Silk) and The Time and the Place (hosted by John Stapleton). Contemporaneously, a number of American made programmes have been imported particularly for the satellite and cable channels (with hosts such as Rolonda, Oprah, Geraldo and Tempest). The most controversial of the American imports has been The Jerry Springer Show, which initially appeared on cable and satellite but also gained a mainstream terrestrial lunchtime slot on the independent network. The show was said to be television’s biggest cash cow, generating more than $40 million in 1997 via advertising and commercial deals (Guardian, 2 May 1998) and displacing the Oprah Winfrey Show as the most popular show of its type. The aspects of The Jerry Springer Show that generated most concern were the physical confrontations between guests who were involved in relationships. The subject matter, which frequently involves admissions of sexual infidelity, encourages such direct conflict which is then controlled by the intervention of security staff. Ironically, although some of the physical assaults are broadcast, the language of the participants and audience is subject to severe censorship rendering much of the dialogue inaudible.
   Springer himself has been seen to question why people come onto national television to bare their souls and to confess their worst sins. In many of these instances, the desire for exposure outweighs any potential humiliation or accusations of washing dirty linen in public. Perhaps more than any other area, this phenomena illustrates the veracity of Andy Warhol’s ‘famous for fifteen minutes’ dictum and hints at a wider voyeuristic fascination.
   See also: phone-ins and chat shows
   GUY OSBORN
   STEVE GREENFIELD

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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