ELMS: Talk shows should be more than just fluff

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This week, I had an interesting assignment for my Race & Gender in Mass Media class with Dr. Ana Garner: Watch three hours of daytime network television, and analyze what you see. Since I am not usually at home during the day to watch TV, this was a relatively new experience for me.

The programming was what I expected: soap operas with over-the-top plotlines and mediocre acting, court shows featuring no-nonsense judges aggressively ordering people to get their lives back on track, and talk shows discussing today’s hot topics and trends.

It was difficult to take the soap operas and court shows seriously because I knew they were intentionally exaggerated, but I was a little surprised by the content of the talk shows.

I watched CBS’s “The Talk” for the first time, and, initially, I liked what I saw. The group of five female hosts is very diverse. There are two white women, Sara Gilbert and Sharon Osbourne, two African American women, Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood, and one Asian American, Julie Chen, who all offer varying perspectives. Moreover, none of the women were sexualized by their dress or makeup, as is often the case with women on TV.

Unfortunately, my positive first impression stopped once the hosts dove into the content of the show.

First up on the day’s agenda was a photo of Kim Kardashian walking home from rumored-boyfriend Kanye West’s house with a hickey on her neck. For the next several minutes, the hosts discussed whether the notion of a “walk of shame” still exists in 2012.

However, the main points I took away from the discussion were, why would Kim Kardashian be walking home when she has a personal driver, and why wouldn’t she just cover the hickey with makeup since she is already wearing it on her face?

Fair enough, people like their celebrity gossip, and maybe “The Talk” didn’t want to delve into any hard-hitting topics right off the bat. Alas, those sophisticated topics never made an appearance.

In an hour of programming, the group never once mentioned the economy, the GOP candidates, health care or even the price of gas. I acknowledge the fact that the purpose of shows like “The Talk” may be to provide an escape from the stresses of daily life, but the featured topics do not have to be so limited.

The women discussed two viral videos, one of “Dancing with the Stars” pro Mark Ballas and girlfriend Tiffany Dunn fighting over a scooter and a cigarette, and another of a restaurant patron who started a full-fledged brawl when she did not receive the entrée she ordered. The closest the hosts came to addressing an issue of any real social or political importance was answering the question, is there ever a license to cheat? After much debate, they all thankfully agreed there is not.

There is no doubt that all television programming is a form of entertainment, no matter what type of show it is, but shows like “The Talk” could easily be entertaining as well as intellectually stimulating. I wish they would give it a shot.

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