, Research Paper
Daytime talk shows are everywhere these days. Almost every broadcast channel has its own series of daytime talk show. To watch one of these shows, you do not even need to be home during the day: you can find Jerry Springer on at midnight. This report focuses on the differences, as well as the similarities that can be found by watching two contrasting daytime talk shows. For this report I reviewed two talk shows which I felt would contrast each other well. The first was Jerry Springer; his topic was ?Honey I Have A Lover On The Side.? The second was Oprah Winfrey whose topic was ?How To Get Your Power Back.? Both of these shows have comparable layouts but their similarities end there. This report discusses what these similarities, and differences are and then compares and contrasts these two talk shows.
These shows are similar in that they both let everyday people to come on the show to tell their stories. On Jerry Springer the guests were Arol, his girlfriend Jessica, and Gina, Jessica?s roommate. Arol came on the show to admit to Jessica that he had been sleeping with Gina. Arol also told us that he felt that Jessica might also be cheating on him. When Jessica came out he told her of his infidelity, and she then admitted to him that she was also sleeping with Gina. After the bickering and name calling that always follows these types of admissions, the show went to commercial and came back into a time of questions from the audience. During this invitation for audience members to participate in the show most of the people didn?t have questions but rather rude comments for the participants.
Oprah also brought guests on so that they could tell their stories. First to come out was Gina. Gina was raped and afterwards had felt so powerless that she went as far as contemplating suicide. She was finally able to overcome these feelings by confronting her attacker face to face in court. Next, we learned the story of Jodie, a woman who was pregnant with twins. Her twins were born 14 weeks early. Four days later one of the twins died of heart failure, every time a significant event in the living twin?s life came around, Gina would think of the loss of the twin that did not make it. This incident caused her to feel that she had no control over anything in her life and that he would never feel completely happy again. Both of these shows have different goals for there guests when they bring them out, The Jerry Springer Show?s goal with its guests is to show them off as if they are freaks, whereas Oprah Winfrey?s goal with her guests it to help them out and get them going on a better road through life.
Both of these shows are daytime talk shows that allow everyday people to tell their stories to the American public. But that is the end to the similarities. The main purpose of Jerry Springer seems to be, to put these people on show, almost as if they were in the center ring of a circus. Oprah Winfrey, however, takes a different approach. It appears that the goal of her show is to truly help the people on the show and give them a better outlook on life. Jerry Springer claims to want to help the people out. He does have a segment at the end called ?Final Thoughts,? where he tries to sum up the problems of the participants and give some advice to them and the public. But is this really any help? There isn?t really much help a person can give in half a minute.
Oprah does seem to really help out. She brings on an expert on the participants? problem and he gives advice through the entire show, rather than just for thirty seconds at the end. The expert on the show I reviewed was Gary, an expert on bringing back your power after you have suffered a traumatic situation. Gary spoke more during this particular episode than Oprah or any of the guests did. In fact the guests received very little airtime during the show, and most of this was a pre-recorded segment with a narrator telling their story. His advice is good and in depth.
Guests on both shows are also different in many ways. Jerry Springer?s guests are always people you would expect to see in a ?low rent? area such as the inner city or a trailer park. The guys always seem to be dressed in a sloppy manner, and the girls in a rather sluttish manner.. Compared to the guests on Oprah Winfrey who always seem to be middle class Americans with pretty good jobs. They are dressed nicer too. The men come on in a nice business suit and the women a dress, never sloppy cloths or short skirts. These guests seem to show that, to them, being on television is a special event, for which they dress their best.
The topic of the show also helps to show this difference in show goals. Jerry Springer?s topic for the episode I reviewed was ?Honey, I Have A Lover On The Side.? This seems to me to give an appearance of an almost voyeuristic show, in which people with horrible family problems come on the show, so the world can look at their lives and sometimes even mock them. Oprah Winfrey takes a different approach to show titles. Her topic was ?How To Get Your Power Back.? The title itself goes as far as to tell people that the show is going to give them advise on how to live a better life. Both of these titles say a lot about the show in general. Jerry Springer?s title gives the viewing audience a sense of a voyeuristic show, while Oprah Winfrey?s title gives the impression that the show is going to help out its guests.
A more prevalent difference between the two shows is the target audience. Jerry Springer appeared to be geared more towards an audience of people in their late teens and early twenties, with its harsh language and very graphic descriptions of the people?s problems, whereas Oprah Winfrey appeared to be geared more towards an audience of say at home mothers, with her more emotional problems. In fact even the advice seemed to be more geared to women in its general nature.
The set of the show even seems to point to a difference in target audience. Jerry Springer has an inner city looking set, with a brick wall in the background and very ?no frills? chairs, whereas Oprah?s set was fancy, with couches for the guests and a large video screen in the background. This seems to show that Jerry Springer is based towards a lower budget crowd, one that might be found in the inner city, but Oprah Winfrey seemed to be targeted more towards middle class America.
The layout of seating and where the participants of the show are placed in relation to each other also differs in the two shows. On Jerry Springer guests are placed close together, with the conflicting parties sitting together, almost as if they were trying to promote some sort of physical confrontation between warring parties. These guests are also placed right up front in the audience?s center of focus. This gives a feeling that they are the topic of discussion, as apposed to Oprah Winfrey whose guests sit in the front row of the audience in a location where they are not the constant focus of the show. In fact they only receive a few minutes of airtime through the entire sixty-minute show. The party that receives the majority of attention on Oprah?s show is Oprah herself and her expert on the topic, who is there to help the guests.
Audience participation also adds to the feeling of a daytime talk show, as Jane Shattuc says, ?audience participation is crucial to daytime talk TV.? (qtd. in George 8) On Jerry Springer the audience is a constant part of the show, between their loud uproars of hooting, hollering and the question and answer portion of the show. However, Oprah Winfrey has a more laid back audience that is not as much a part of the show. Her audience is more just there as a background to the show, almost a part of the set.
Throughout the two talk shows the similarities between Jerry Springer and Oprah Winfrey are not nearly as prevalent as the many differences, both in goal and in target audience. Through watching these shows and putting them in a head to head comparison, I have seen that both shows are in a sense in separate classes and that the only link between these two shows is their classification as daytime talk television.
George, Diana, and John Trimbur. Reading Culture: Contexts for Reading and Writing. 3rd Ed., New York: Longman, 1999.