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15 Minutes of True Tabloid Stars (2001)

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14 August 2001 (USA)  »

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An Above-Standard, Unpadded, Documentary Discusses How Tabloid Television Elects To Portray Us.
8 October 2011 | by (Mountain Mesa, California) – See all my reviews

The process through which tabloid television, including day hour "talk shows", has evolved to its present position within our less than ordered contemporary society, is the subject of this well-constructed documentary that features interviews, some sardonic in tone, with author Burt Kearns, producer of TV's A Current Affair, who describes the impact of tabloid television as "the last great news revolution of the twentieth century"; day-time talk show hostess Sally Jessy Raphael, making a point that exploitation results in improved ratings; Jerry Springer, who believes that his bizarre show "provides a platform" for average Americans to express themselves; Michael Ayala, Court TV anchor/reporter, who affirms that ours has become a video-based culture; host of A Current Affair Maury Povich who, following his claim that "we had a conscience" proceeds to minimize his remark; Deborah Norville, author as well as hostess of "Inside Edition", who tenders a salient point that journalists spend an excessive amount of time defending that which they have "a right to do instead of the right thing to do". This quarter-hour length work is a form of response to New Line Cinema's successful melodrama FIFTEEN MINUTES, being included as a special bonus for that film's Infinifilm DVD release, and with clips from the feature film being viewed by the interviewees. As we know, sensationalism of the press goes far back, being a newspaper staple for many decades in United States history, but had not settled into its present media sanctuary until the mid-1980s. In the opinion of Burt Kearns, it "boils a news story down to primal, universal elements, or as Jerry Springer puts it "where the reaction will be....the greatest." Maury Povich adds "tabloid television goes for the heart" while Norville somewhat disagrees, regarding it as "sizzle without substance", an attribution to tabloid TV's dependence upon the (insufficiently evolved) intelligence level of its targeted audience. Kearns, whose input will be the most insightful for many viewers, here mentions that "for the first time, people are seeing themselves", commensurate to "peeking through torn curtains into a nearby house". He adds, Povich and Norville agreeing, that the role of program host is a crucial one, and that talk shows directly succeeded tabloid TV, although less elaborate, principally by reflecting identical elements. Raphael points out that the initial tabloid programs were somewhat "dignified", as example with Phil Donahue, until Jerry Springer "came along", and a comment by Kearns here is salient: that the human subjects are, for the most part, "from a lower-middle class" environment, and puns he had been taught that "ethics is a county outside London". Springer, however, posits that we have a "free society" and. as a result, all elements (of that society) should be reflected on television. However, Ayala is concerned over the fact that, as with Springer, "paying people undermines their credibility", and he stresses that moral injury has often been a result, due to the marketability of homemade videos (e.g., the Rodney King charade). This is an interesting discussion concerning a socially significant topic, despite its being devolved upon a rather weak supposition: that we are all regular television viewers. Raphael gives an appropriate comment to this when she declares that "more people watch....than think".


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