chapter
Talk Shows
Pages 26

The talk show is a television and radio genre that emerged strongly in the late 1960s, notable for its emphasis on audience participation in discussion of social and personal topics, often including homosexuality, transgender issues, and sexual politics. Rooted in earlier radio and television genres, talk shows variously combine audience participation, discussion of social issues, sensational conflict, and information. Talk radio, with a predominantly male audience, has generally been more receptive to conservative political expressions, while television talk programming, aimed primarily at an audience of women, has been more receptive to liberal perspectives on social issues. (Although they have been especially significant in the United States, radio and television talk shows, both indigenous ones and those imported from the United States, are found worldwide.)

Beginning with the Donahue show in 1967, followed by Oprah in 1986 and numerous others subsequently, daytime television talk shows in particular became early and ongoing media sites in which nonconforming sex and gender populations, identities, and issues were publicly visible and openly discussed. In their single-topic, controversydriven “talk/service” format (as opposed to other talk formats such as celebrity chat), television talk shows for a time were among the only spots on national television where gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered people were invited to appear as themselves, to speak about, sometimes argue about and defend, their lives. In particular, Donahue and

Talk show host Phil Donahue puts on a skirt for a show on cross-dressing, 1988. A/P Wide World Photos.