chapter  4
THE MANY FACES OF WITH MENI: THE HISTORY AND STORIES OF ONE ISRAELI TALK SHOW
WithShoshana Blum-Kulka
Pages 26

It is the second month of the millenium, February 2000. I turn on the television to watch with Meni (called in Hebrew ecel meni), Israel’s longest running talk show. What I see is a huge elevated podium with an elaborate decor of door-windows, and a second podium for the orchestra. The host walks in through one of the doorwindows, is greeted by enthusiastic applause from an audience of a few hundred seated in the auditorium, and the show begins. The guests walk in one by one or in pairs and are seated in light armchairs half-facing the host, who interviews them from behind a desk. Each guest has an exceptional story to tell. The program is a succession of melodramatic and optimistic stories about finding love serendipitously (a caption reading “she found love after being abandoned by her husband” is flashed on the screen simultaneously with the interview) or being cured from a grave illness, interspersed with music and interviews with celebrities. It is all highly glittering, light in tone, and theatrical; the audience is there to applaud only (seen for brief moments during the show) and the guests and the host do their best collaboratively to amuse and move their audiences. This highly Americanized version of the show is the latest of its many incarnations.