Television Talk Shows: Discourse, Performance, Spectacle

Television Talk Shows: Discourse, Performance, Spectacle

Television Talk Shows: Discourse, Performance, Spectacle

Television Talk Shows: Discourse, Performance, Spectacle

Synopsis

The "talk show" has become a ubiquitous feature of American and European television. The various examples have been frequently discussed by academic commentators, as well as journalists in an attempt to place them in a cultural setting. Ultimately, the conclusion is reached by both academics and non-academics that talk shows matter because they are a focus for considerable public debate and are crucial to the landscape of popular television. All the variations of talk shows, from chat shows to celebrity interviews, have key elements in common: They all feature groups of guests, not individual interviewees, and they all involve audience participation. The studio audience is not only visible, but is given the opportunity to comment and intervene. Other books have applied academic analysis to the phenomenon of these shows, but this is the first to analyze the actual "talk" of the talk shows, and in that sense it is closer to discourse analysis than to other forms of analysis. This book provides a systematic empirical study of the broadcast talk in talk shows and maps out the range of formats that appear in the major American and British television shows. The contributors are members of an international network of researchers interested in the study of broadcast talk.

Excerpt

Two British news stories from 1999: In February it was eported that two producers and a researcher working on the BBC talk show Vanessa had been suspended following a revelation that some guests on the program were fakes (Guardian, 1999a). What was particularly scandalous was that two strippers, purporting to be “feuding sisters” had been knowingly recruited from an entertainment agency. This was too much for the BBC hierarchy, who produced a statement concluding that “audiences must be able to believe in the integrity of our programs.” The Guardian article drew comparisons with Vanessa's ITV rival Trisha, where producers claimed they had been duped into featuring fakes. Later in 1999, Vanessa was axed by the BBC, having lost its ratings battle with Trisha.

Then in April, news reports reached Britain of another development in the infamous Jenny Jones murder case. Now the family of the man murdered in 1995 by the object of his homosexual desires, after appearing on the program, was initiating a lawsuit against the production company (Telepictures Productions) and the distributors (Time Warner). Here the Guardian's report (1999b) set the case in the wider context of U.S. legal rulings on media responsibility for criminal acts. Clearly an “effects” agenda had entered the U.S. courts to the extent that not only were the media being cited as a possible influence, but also they were now potentially, legally culpable as a direct cause of crime.

From such reports, it would seem that the TV talk show is in something of a double bind. They are damned if they do feature fakes (at least in the . . .

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