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Are contemporary talk shows an extension of democratic debate or an instance of 'dumbing down'?

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Bethany Dumville A224675 Word count=2135 Are contemporary talk shows an extension of democratic debate or an instance of 'dumbing down'? The 'talk show' has become an increasingly popular genre of television programme. Although the definition of a talk show on a dictionary website is "a television or radio show in which noted people, such as authorities in a particular field, participate in discussions or are interviewed and often answer questions from viewers or listeners." (http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=talk%20show), there are, on television more variations of talk shows than this. In a more general sense the Enyclopedia Of Television describes how a talk show "is as a show that is quite clearly and self-consciously built around its talk". It is based on conversation, in different forms; between presenter and guest, guest and audience member, guest and 'expert', which is transformed into a low cost programme that brings in a large television audience. This essay will explore the history of the talk show, and how as it has changed it has examples of being both an extension of democratic debate and evidence of the dumbing down of television. As a television format talk shows were originally developed in the United States, developing out of decades of various different traditions, from radio, television, theatre, etc., with the first hosts, or presenters stepping out of news and entertainment. ...read more.


Although this provided a cross section it allowed for producers to create an audience they thought would give the appropriate response, ask appropriate questions, and form the right image for that episode and the show as a whole. The other two shows often struggled to fill their studios so any person would have been able to get a ticket to a show on that day. This method indisputably offers 'more democratic access' (Shattuc, 1994). The content of any talk show is going to be an indication as to the levels of democratic debate, or 'dumbing down' of that particular show, and perhaps the genre as a whole. In this case, focused on will be the shows of the U.K. 'Trisha' is broadcast on ITV every week day, and covers a variety of issues, 4 in each broadcast. One recent topic was 'I want Gareth Gates' babies', which featured a 36yr old woman who was obsessed with the pop star and was sure that one day she was going to marry him. This section of the episode consisted of her friend outlining the problem, the woman herself coming on to the stage to defend herself and then her mum also coming on to share her worries about the situation. ...read more.


This potential is not always used to its full extent, as can be seen on Kilroy when entertainment value is sought in the focus on drama and melodrama. However the perhaps more popular talk shows are those such as Trisha which focus on the scandal and problems of an individual's life while others look on in amazement, feeling better about their own existence. This is not what television was created for, and it requires nothing of the viewer to process and interpret what they are watching. It is insulting that networks and producers think that this is how we want to spend our time but the popularity of these shows is evidence enough that they are playing to the public's wants. Surely these powers have the responsibility to broadcast not only what is popular, what people want, but also what people need to develop as human beings. However, ultimately these companies are after as much money as they can get and if this melodrama and scandal, this dumbing down of television, which surely this is, is what 'the people' are going to watch then we have to be careful-who knows what is next; perhaps they will put 10 people in a house together without any outside contact, film them 24 hours a day and broadcast it live on national television. ...read more.

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