chapter  1
TALKING ABOUT TALK: THE ACADEMIC DEBATES
WithAndrew Tolson
Pages 24

In the wake of its notoriety, the talk show phenomenon has attracted a range of academic commentary and discussion. This chapter reviews that work, partly to introduce the range of theoretical perspectives, but also to develop a case for the kinds of empirical analysis that follow. Some of this academic work touches on what we see as interesting issues, and of course we acknowledge that. Equally, however, much discussion seems to be overwhelmed by the phenomenon with which it is engaged. If the talk show is the most controversial TV genre, then much academic commentary seems impelled to line up either for or against the terms of the controversy. In the first camp there are some writers who express profound moral ambivalence or even hostility toward the talk show. These writers are then contradicted by others who seek to defend the genre, sometimes in political or, more precisely, sexual-political terms. Finally, there is a third twist in some writings which are critical of the terms of this defense and which suggest, we think, that it is time to move on.