Nothing very novel here, then. But you could see Simon Dring's problem: as he wandered through the world of the American daytime talk-show, it seemed as though, whichever way he turned, there was somebody waiting to confirm all the cliches for him. What was he supposed to do - lie?
The thrust of the programme was that America is becoming more and more obsessed with soul-baring as a form of entertainment, that American popular culture thrives on watching the suffering of others. There are now 27 Oprah-style confessional programmes on air. Not that all of them started that way: Yolanda Brown's show was originally intended to be hard-hitting investigative journalism, on subjects like gun control and sexual harassment; but sliding ratings pushed her towards softer and softer subjects ("Too many babies are calling my man 'Daddy' "); she squares this with her conscience by telling herself that this is, by implication, an indictment of the welfare system.
Dring, rather to his credit, instead of playing this for laughs, concentrated on pointing out how revolting all this touchy-feely stuff was. His distaste may just have been a result of his irredeemable Britishness: the finest moment was his confrontation with a television psychiatrist who explained to him his opinion, formed on the basis of a year spent at the University of Reading, that British culture has a good deal of trouble accessing the part of the brain associated with emotions. But even people with full access to their feelings must have been a little perturbed to hear a woman describe to Dring how she and her father had been cajoled into an on-air confrontation that effectively wrecked their family life and made them objects of ridicule throughout their home town.
There was comfort to be had from this programme, though: more of the American talk-shows are due over here. And as long as we're buying them from over there, we're not going to be making them ourselves. We can keep the high ground a bit longer yet.Reuse content