The Talking Cure: TV Talk Shows and Women

Jane Shattuc, Author, M. Shattuc Jane, Author
Jane Shattuc, Author, M. Shattuc Jane, Author Routledge $110 (272p) ISBN 978-0-415-91087-3
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-415-91088-0
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By 1995, 15 daytime talk shows were aired in major U.S. TV markets, ending the 50-year reign of soap operas as the most popular daytime program format. In this cultural history, Shattuc distinguishes issue-oriented daytime talk shows from other talk shows: aimed at a female audience, these shows are produced by non-network companies for broadcast on network-affiliated stations. Trying to spur active audience participation, the hosts, sometimes with the help of ""experts,"" mediate between guests and audiences on current social issues. Comparing 1994 TV themes with news of ""crime and the uncommon"" in Joseph Pulitzer's 1884 New York World, Shattuc traces the talk show's evolution from the 1950s late-night celebrity talk format and 1960s daytime celebrity talk shows to the National Enquirer and the ""circuslike display"" seen on more recent shows, which she describes as ""part narrative melodrama and part public affairs."" Daytime TV talk shows are allowed a ""degree of tawdriness"" not found on prime time, and they emphasize class inequities, defending ""the little guy"" against the reigning power. They provide, says Shattuc, a discourse, a debate for the disenfranchised. The book is structured to carry the reader through every aspect: authenticity, use of actors, the production process, topics and issues (feminism, race, gays), advertising, ratings and controversial confrontational tactics (the ""ambush disclosure""), concluding with a look at messages found online in computer bulletin board debates. Nothing is omitted from this exhaustive, much-needed study, the result of numerous interviews and research over a four-year period, involving 240 hours of talk shows, hundreds of questionnaires and exploration of the Museum of Television & Radio archives. (Jan.)
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