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The Talk Show ("Chat Show" in the UK) genre encompasses a number of different formats, but all talk shows share certain characteristics:

  • Talk shows are (almost) exclusively Nonfiction. (Space Ghost Coast to Coast and Fernwood 2 Nite are thus subversions of the entire genre.)
  • Talk shows feature a guest or guests who are invited on a per-episode basis to discuss topics with permanent hosts.
  • All talk shows are ephemeral in that they are created, shown, and then discarded or shelved. Except in rare circumstances, reruns are not shown.

Talk Show Formats

Most talk shows follow one of a number of standard formats:

  1. Morning News Talk Show: Light news, commentary, and fluff pieces. Examples: The Today Show, Good Morning America.
  2. News Talk Show: Pundits arguing. Meet the Press is the longest-running example, as well as the longest running talk show, and the longest running TV show period. (Guiding Light has 15+ more years than Meet the Press on radio, but one less on TV.)
  3. Pundit Show: A News Talk Show with only one host. Generally self-aggrandizing, highly politicized and full of vitriol. Often supported with a companion series on AM Radio (if the radio show isn't the main draw in the first place) and a blog. The radio ones usually Phone-In Shows, as well. Examples: The O'Reilly Factor, The Rush Limbaugh Show, Hardball (with Chris Matthews), Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Big Idea with Donny Deutsche, The Colbert Report (parody).
  4. Daytime Talk Show: These shows typically feature celebrities and/or ordinary people who showcase scandal or dysfunctionality. Examples: Jerry Springer (scandal), Live With Regis & Some Girl (celebrities), The Oprah Winfrey Show (either or both). Pioneered by Phil Donahue. Dr. Phil fits here, with the twist that he attempts to use psychology to help the dysfunctional people.
  5. Late Night Talk Show: Current events, comedy, and celebrity guests, such as The Tonight Show, Late Night, The Late Show, The Late Late Show, etc. Often a limited form of the Variety Show, typically featuring a musical act—which is usually used to cut to commercial, and rarely shown in its entirety. In the 70s, such shows as Dinah Shore and The Mike Douglas Show aired afternoons, a trend that saw a slight resurgence in the mid 90s.
  6. Phone-In Talk Show: Most common in radio, this type of show has the host(s) engaging in conversation with listeners who call in by telephone. A lot of these double as/are linked to Pundit Shows: besides Limbaugh, O'Reilly, Hannity, and Beck, all have phone-in radio shows, as did Rachel Maddow before she hopped to TV. Other than those, NPR puts forward a number of phone-in shows that double as News Talk (Talk of the Nation and The Diane Rehm Show being the ones syndicated nationwide); they also do Car Talk, which is Exactly What It Says on the Tin, plus comedy. Commercial radio has a plethora of these, as well; the one that sticks in a lot of people's memories, however, is Coast to Coast AM, a talk show about the paranormal that generally airs in the wee hours of the morning.
  7. Spoof Talk Show: Does what it says on the tin. Examples: Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Knowing Me Knowing You, Man to Man With Dean Learner, Fernwood 2 Nite.

Notable Talk Show Hosts