chapter  5
“HAS IT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU?” TALK SHOW STORIES AS MEDIATED PERFORMANCE
Pages 24

As several academic commentators have noted, one of the distinguishing features of television talk shows is the narrativization of lay experience. In most programs within this genre, varied as they have become over the past 2 decades, it is certainly the case that participants regularly tell stories of their own personal experiences. However, some recent research into the structure and organization of talk show discourse has shown that these stories do much more than simply provide a core of commonsense experience that, it has been claimed, such shows counterpose against “expert” institutionally based knowledge (Carpignano et al., 1990; Livingstone & Lunt, 1994). They also serve important interactional purposes and function as a resource for participants to accomplish a range of different discursive actions. For example, speakers frequently use stories as a rhetorical device in the production of opinions (Hutchby, 1999b) and as a resource for constructing their position with regard to the issues under debate (Thornborrow, 1997). Talk show hosts can also construct the evaluative elements of personal experience narratives as contentious statements, thus sustaining the interactional dynamic of the debate (Thornborrow, 1997). So narratives, in the broadest definition of the term, from brief anecdotes to personal accounts and reports, form a rich discursive resource for talk show participants to present their personal experiences, construct their positions within a debate, and argue their points of view.