ReviewEssays.com - Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays
Search

Talk Shows

Essay by review  •  September 28, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  5,388 Words (22 Pages)  •  3,262 Views

Essay Preview: Talk Shows

Report this essay
Page 1 of 22

TALK SHOWS

The television talk show is, on the face of it, a rather strange institution. We pay people to talk for us. Like the soap opera, the talk show is an invention of twentieth century broadcasting. It takes a very old form of communication, conversation, and transforms it into a low cost but highly popular form of information and entertainment through the institutions, practices and technologies of television.

The talk show did not originate over night, at one time, or in one place. It developed out of forty years of television practice and antecedent talk traditions from radio, Chatauqua, vaudeville and popular theater. In defining the talk show it is useful to distinguish between "television talk" (unscripted presentational address) and "talk shows"--shows organized principally around talk. "Television talk" represents all the unscripted forms of conversation and direct address to the audience that have been present on television from the beginning. This kind of "live," unscripted talk is one of the basic things that distinguishes television from film, photography, the record and book industries. Television talk is almost always anchored or framed by an announcer or host figure, and may be defined, in Erving Goffman's terms, as "fresh talk," that is, talk that appears to be generated word by word and in a spontaneous manner. Though it is always to a degree spontaneous, television talk is also highly structured. It takes place in ritualized encounters and what the viewer sees and hears on the air has been shaped by writers, producers, stage managers and technical crews and tailored to the talk formulas of television.

Thus, though it resembles daily speech, the kind of talk that occurs on television does not represent unfettered conversation. Different kinds of television talk occur at different times of the broadcast day, but much of this talk occurs outside the confines of what audiences and critics have come to know as the "talk show." Major talk traditions have developed around news, entertainment, and a variety of social encounters that have been reframed and adapted for television. For example, talk is featured on game shows, dating or relationship shows, simulated legal encounters (People's Court) or shows that are essentially elaborate versions of practical jokes (Candid Camera). All of these shows feature talk but are seldom referred to as "talk shows."

A "talk show," on the other hand, is as a show that is quite clearly and self-consciously built around its talk. To remain on the air a talk show must adhere to strict time and money constraints, allowing time, for instance, for the advertising spots that must appear throughout the show. The talk show must begin and end within these rigid time limits and, playing to an audience of millions, be sensitive to topics that will interest that mass audience. For its business managers the television talk show is one product among many and they are usually not amenable to anything that will interfere with profits and ratings. This kind of show is almost always anchored by a host or team of hosts.

Host/Forms

Talk shows are often identified by the host's name in the title, an indication of the importance of the host in the history of the television talk show. Indeed, we might usefully combine the two words and talk about host/forms.

A good example of the importance of the host to the form a talk show takes would be The Tonight Show. The Tonight Show premiered on NBC in 1954 with Steve Allen as its first host. While it maintained a distinctive format and style throughout its first four decades on the air, The Tonight Show changed significantly with each successive host. Steve Allen, Ernie Kovacs, Jack Paar, Johnny Carson, and Jay Leno each took The Tonight Show in a significant new direction. Each of these hosts imprinted the show with distinctive personalities and management styles.

Though many talk shows run for only weeks or months before being taken off the air, once established, talk shows and talk show hosts tend to have long runs. The average number of years on television for the thirty-five major talk show hosts listed at the end of this essay was eighteen years. Successful talk show hosts like Mike Wallace, Johnny Carson, and Barbara Walters bridge generations of viewers. The longevity of these "super stars" increases their impact on the forms and formats of television talk with which they are associated.

Television talk shows originally emerged out of two central traditions: news and entertainment. Over time hybrid forms developed that mixed news, public affairs, and entertainment. These hybrid forms occupy a middle ground position between news and entertainment, though their hosts (Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, and Geraldo Rivera, for example) often got their training in journalism. Approximately a third of the major talk show hosts listed at the end of the essay came out of news. The other two thirds came from entertainment (comedy in particular).

Within the journalistic tradition, the names Edward R. Murrow, Mike Wallace, Ted Koppel and Bill Moyers stand out. News talk hosts like Murrow, Koppel, and Moyers do not have bands, sidekicks, or a studio audience. Their roles as talk show hosts are extensions of their roles as reporters and news commentators. Their shows appear in evening when more adult and older aged viewers are watching. The morning host teams that mix "happy talk" and information also generally come from the news background. This format was pioneered by NBC's Sylvester "Pat" Weaver and host Dave Garroway with the Today show in the early 1950s. Hosts who started out on early morning news talk shows and went on to anchor the evening news or primetime interview shows include: Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor, Barbara Walters, Tom Brokaw, and Jane Pauley. Each developed a distinctive style within the more conversational format of their morning show.

Coming from a journalism background but engaging in a wider arena of cultural topics were hosts like Phil Donahue, Oprah Winfrey, and Geraldo Rivera. Mixing news, entertainment, and public affairs, Phil Donahue established "talk television," an extension of the "hot topic" live radio call-in shows of the 1960s. Donahue himself ran a radio show in Dayton, Ohio before premiering his daytime television talk show. Donahue's Dayton show, later syndicated nationally, featured audience members talking about the social issues that affected their lives.

Ricki Lake

Within

...

...

Download as:   txt (33.5 Kb)   pdf (329.2 Kb)   docx (24 Kb)  
Continue for 21 more pages »
Only available on ReviewEssays.com
Citation Generator

(2010, 09). Talk Shows. ReviewEssays.com. Retrieved 09, 2010, from https://www.reviewessays.com/essay/Talk-Shows/2831.html

"Talk Shows" ReviewEssays.com. 09 2010. 2010. 09 2010 <https://www.reviewessays.com/essay/Talk-Shows/2831.html>.

"Talk Shows." ReviewEssays.com. ReviewEssays.com, 09 2010. Web. 09 2010. <https://www.reviewessays.com/essay/Talk-Shows/2831.html>.

"Talk Shows." ReviewEssays.com. 09, 2010. Accessed 09, 2010. https://www.reviewessays.com/essay/Talk-Shows/2831.html.