All Talk: The Talkshow in Media Culture

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Wayne Munson examines the talkshow as a cultural form whose curious productivity has become vital to America's image economy. As the very name suggests, the talkshow is both interpersonal exchange and mediated spectacle. Its range of topics defies classification: from the sensational and bizarre, to the conventional and the advisory, to politics and world affairs. Munson grapples with the sense and nonsense of the talkshow, particularly its audience participation and its ...

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All Talk: The Talkshow in Media Culture

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Overview

Wayne Munson examines the talkshow as a cultural form whose curious productivity has become vital to America's image economy. As the very name suggests, the talkshow is both interpersonal exchange and mediated spectacle. Its range of topics defies classification: from the sensational and bizarre, to the conventional and the advisory, to politics and world affairs. Munson grapples with the sense and nonsense of the talkshow, particularly its audience participation and its construction of knowledge.

This hybrid genre includes the news/talk "magazine," celebrity chat, sports talk, psychotalk, public affairs forum, talk/service program, and call-in interview show. All share characteristics of lucidity and contradiction—the hallmarks of postmodernity—and it is this postmodern identity that Munson examines and links to mass and popular culture, the public sphere, and contemporary political economy.

Munson takes a close look at the talkshow’s history, programs, production methods, and the "talk" about it that pervades media culture—the press, broadcasting, and Hollywood. He analyzes individual shows such as "Geraldo," "The Morton Downey Show," "The McLaughlin Group," and radio call-in "squawk" programs, as well as movies such as Talk Radio and The King of Comedy that investigate the talkshow’s peculiar status. Munson also examines such events as the political organizing of talkhosts and their role in the antitax and anti-incumbency groundswells of the 1990s. In so doing, Munson demonstrates how "infotainment" is rooted in a deliberate uncertainty. The ultimate parasitic media form, the talkshow promiscuously indulges in—and even celebrated—its dependencies and contradictions. It "works" by "playing" with boundaries and identities to personalize the political and politicize the personal. Arguing that the talkshow's form and host are productively ill-defined, Munson asks whether the genre is a degradation of public life or part of a new, revitalized public sphere in which audiences are finally and fully "heard" through interactive.

 

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Describing the talk show as the ``newest and least understood'' neighborhood in America, Munson, who teaches communications/media at Fitchburg State College in Mass., offers a sometimes insightful but often tedious academic survey. Munson traces the talk show's antecedents to 18th-century magazines and the 19th-century lyceum movement and describes its growth on radio and TV. The ad-libbed, news-plus-personality talk show format, he suggests, is designed to grab the attention of viewers by combining the familiar with the unpredicted. Citing Oprah , Downey and the Frank Rizzo Show , among others, Munson concludes that the talk show blurs distinctions between public and private, creating a new ``cyberspatial'' place. But he frequently diminishes the impact of his argument in prose like the following reference to a TV talk show interview of Hugh Hefner: `` Ironically, just as Playboy, in its commodified transgression, opened the middle-class home to sex, Nightbeat parasitically `exposed' that transgression for its own paratextual commodification.'' (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"Through sharp scholarship and rigorous reflection, Wayne Munson negotiates the complexities and contradictions of talk-media to produce compelling insights of a far reaching sort. This book combines close stylistic analysis and broad theoretical mediation in exciting, intellectually engaging fashion."
Dana Polan, University of Pittsburgh, author of Power and Paranoia: History, narrative, and the American Cinema
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780877229957
  • Publisher: Temple University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/1993
  • Series: Culture and the Moving Image Series
  • Pages: 216
  • Product dimensions: 6.33 (w) x 9.31 (h) x 0.88 (d)

Meet the Author


Wayne Munson is Assistant Professor of Communications/Media at Fitchburg State College in Massachusetts.
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Table of Contents


Contents

Acknowledgments 

Introduction: The Sense of the Talkshow 
1. Turning to Talk: The Talkshow's Development 
2. Constellations of Voices: How Talkshows Work 
3. Making Sense and Nonsense: Talk about the Talkshow 
Postscript: A New Sense of Place 
Notes 
Index

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