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“Enough Rope” by A. Denton as a Hybrid of Talk and Current Affairs Shows

Intrduction

The twentieth century is known for shift of the frames and Cultural Revolution. The sphere of media programming underwent serious changes in the first place. The emphasis was put on the entertaining purpose of television programs, sacrificing the accuracy of the information provided. Blurring the frontiers of the genre system of the past, the new types of programs, such as talk show and current affairs, appeared and evolved into their contemporary form. Australian program Enough Rope with Andrew Denton is regarded to be a mixture of the talk and current affairs shows, blending the best features of these genres, violating borders of both of them.

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Main body

The rapid technical progress of the twentieth century resulted in transformation of the existing media programs formats. The main pre-conditions for these processes were involvement of the mass media in the political debates, expansion of cable networks and consequent variety of homogeneous shows. In other words, appearance of talk and current affairs shows was required by the political and economical situation in the country, but it was the competition among the numerous similar shows of the same genre that caused further evolution of the genres and made the producers resort different tricks. Timberg and Erler (2002) noted that “In the early 1990s, interest in talk shows was also fueled by the talk-shows strategies of candidates in national political campaigns” (p. 1). At this period the politicians realized that it is possible to influence the voters’ opinions through mass media, which may be a strong weapon for distorting the citizens’ perception of the events. But the existing news blocks illuminating the bare facts mostly without analysis and evaluation of the events were not suitable for it. Current affairs shows provided more opportunities for expressing one’s views, giving promises to the voters and other political spin. The political talk shows could become the place for the debates of the candidates, where they could describe their political programs in details presenting their claims to the opponents. This way of political propaganda was even cheaper than alternative measures, while financing of the mass media resulted in the development of the sphere. Another factor causing transformation of the genres was development of the cable television. Edgerton and Rose (2005) noted that “The 1990s witnessed the rapid expansion of cable networks – and, in turn, these programming entities’ search for inexpensive original content that could provide brand distinctiveness” (p. 158). The programs based on the simple expression of personal views of the guests and experts required minimal expenses but captured the attention of the audience. This admiration of the talk and current affairs shows may be explained by the novelty of the genre and its simplicity. The audience was not made analyze the events or make conclusions; the spectators could enjoy the discussion being assured that it is live and spontaneous. It was possible to economize on decorations and scriptwriters, as the shows were focused on talk. The problems were taken from everyday life of ordinary people, touching every spectator or from life of outstanding people astonishing the audience. The cheaper channels required cheaper content and encouraged producers to create numerous homogeneous programs. The problem is that the format was new and it was necessary to learn to work in its frames before making some contributions to it. But the conditions of severe competition promote innovations in the sphere, as the benefits of the program depended upon its rating among the audience. The producers were aimed at preventing the spectators from switching the channel by all means. Grindstaff (2002) noted that “When the industry transformed into this giant beast of eighteen, nineteen, twenty shows, then all bets were off…The ante was up to get those guests in those chairs and make something happen” (p. 51). The spectators got accustomed to the live conversation and it was difficult to amaze them with a story from everyday life, the producers were to invent new tricks in order to capture the spectators’ attention and entertain sophisticated audience. Reflecting the level of political and technological development of the community, the existing mass media forms are to change in accordance to it; this was the main reason for transformation of the genres and appearance of the talk and current affairs shows.

Enough Rope with Andrew Denton on Australian ABC channel was a mixture of both of the new genres, combining the features of talk show with the methods of current affairs. Turner (2005) noted that “In Australia today, an example of the hybrid talk/current affairs show is Andrew Denton’s Enough Rope” (p. 52 ). The title of the program is a part of the well-known proverb, according to which it is necessary to give somebody enough rope to hang oneself. It means that everyone is free to act according to one’s wishes. Denton, the presenter of the show, suggests overall freedom to his guests and the spectators can observe the consequences of this lack of limitations. Bignell (2004) noted that “Talk shows can be regarded as television representations of a public sphere” (p. 123). It means that popularity of this genre may be explained by its proximity to the majority of the population. Most of the spectators experienced the discussed problems or at least are aware of them. This genre does not require any specific preparation of the listeners all the information is acceptable for an average citizen. At the same time talk show at the first stage of their development provided opportunity for civilized solution of the interpersonal conflicts. Bignell (2004 ) admitted that “The translation of personal experience into institutional discourses was also a mechanism of empowerment and resistance into society’s dominant forms, and converting anger into some more socially acceptable force” (p. 123). Translation of the aggression and its subduing reflect the positive impact of the talk shows on the society norms, but generally they were regarded low-quality programs. Timberg and Erler (2002) noted that “It [talk show] is intensely topical and, like the daily newspaper, has traditionally been considered a disposable form” (p. 1). The public opinion regarded the talk shows to be short-term entertainment lacking some specific features and their significant role in the history of mass media was firstly denied. In fact, the programs of this genre became characteristic of this period of time, satisfying the needs of the community. Tolson (2001) noted that “The talk show has become emblematic of a series of developments in the modern media economy: cheap to produce, daytime programming, stripped across the schedules, heading (according to its critics) increasingly downmarket towards the murky depths of ‘trash’ TV” (p. 3). As to the current affairs shows, they broadened the scope of the TV news blocks, providing the opportunity to express one’s opinion of the events and actions. At the same time accuracy of the facts was violated due to the entertainment purpose of the programs coupled with the requirements of politicians, often using the shows of this genre for political spin. As cited in Lumby and Probyn’s work writer Rob Sitch admitted: “Current affairs have always been highly manipulative. All the writing has been polemic in its nature, un-researched, generalized, full of unsubstantiated assertion” (p. 232). The current affairs genre provides the interpretation of the events, often distorting the reality and influencing the views of the audience. Denton’s show cannot be related to any of these genres, combining features of both of them. The methods of current affairs and modified setting of the talk show were used in Enough Rope.

Implementing features of the new genres of talk and current affairs shows Enough Rope was evaluated by the spectators according to the new parameters. The new genres entirely modified self-identification of the audience and consequently influenced the spectators’ perception of the show content. The distance between the spectators present at the show and watching it on TV seemed to be shortened. Holmes (2005) noted that “The television audience clearly identifies with the studio audience and both audiences identify with the talk show host” (p. 217). For this purpose the physical distance between the presenter of the show and the spectators was decreased. The host did not claim for comprehensive understanding of the show issues, trying to investigate them and ascertain the truth together with the unprepared spectators, he was perceived by the audience as one of them. At talk shows there was usually a panel of experts, providing the professional analysis of data. Bignell (2004) noted that “The contributions of experts on the talk show connected the experiences of the guests to institutional discourses such as medicine, psychoanalysis and civil rights” (p. 123). Shifting the frames and revolutionizing the rules of the new genre, Denton modified the panel and its main purpose as well. Turner (2005) noted that “The Panel [in Enough Rope] generates entertaining conversation rather than investigation or analysis; they don’t have to be well-informed (that’s what the guests are there for)” (p. 158). This modification made the participants of the show even closer to the spectators watching it on TV. Using the panel construction for the show, the producer of Enough Rope remains the form of the talk show genre but modifies it changing the self-identification of the audience. Chater (2002) distinguished between the three main categories of the show guests (p. 48). They are authorities, experts, providing the professional analysis of the talk issues, experience, the guests sharing their personal experience, and ability, demonstrating some tricks and talents. Chater (2002) noted that “News and current affairs usually have contributors from the first two categories” (p. 48). Denton used both of the categories, but preferred to alter the location of the categories. Unlike other show, experience often occupied the panel in Enough Rope, while the authority situated among the other spectators. This trick increased the self-esteem of the audience, as the professional analysis was conducted by one of the spectators, the panel though separated by physical obstacles was occupied by the uninformed spectators as well. Andrew Denton’s personal charm and intelligence were an important factor for the popularity of the show. Wood (2009) noted that the producers “emphasize the centrality of the personality of the presenter and, as the talk show unfolds, frame their central space as ‘one of us’” (p. 58) The shows titles often included the names of the show hosts, this fact is the evidence for the personal impact of the presenter or interviewer on the audience perception of the discussion. The aim of the host was to make one’s talking, manners and views interesting and exciting for the spectators. They were to sympathize with the host, otherwise the process of self-identfication with the host would be complicated or even unreal. The talk shows were often appreciated not for their content but for the talking itself. Tolson (2001) noted that “Controversy and popularity of talk shows is fundamentally rooted in the pleasures of watching and listening to people talking in particular ways- and for the most part these are ordinary people … engaged in colloquial forms of talk” (p. 3). Denton took pains for formulating the correct questions, so that not only spectators enjoyed watching the show, but the interviewees felt comfortable providing the personal information. Turner (2005) noted that “When Bill Clinton was in Australia in 2004 his only extended interview was with Denton” (p. 52). This appreciation of the authorities is the evidence of Denton’s talent in combining the entertaining purposes of the show with the ethical norms. The producer of Enough Rope managed to find the balance between the morality and entertainment of the spectators, while the modifications of the show format pleased the audience.

Andrew Denton developed the existing methods of the talk and current affairs shows, combining and altering them at his discretion; he chose individual style for design of his show. Gradual evolution of the new genres required new methods, while severe competition required the producers’ creativity in inventing the new tricks for capturing the attention of the audience. Previously the accuracy of the provided obligation was regarded a moral obligation of the television, but struggling for air time, producers dared to distort the reality. Turner (2005) noted that:

Tabloidization has resulted in the media’s sacrifice of information for entertainment, of accuracy for sensation, and the cynical employment of tactics which entrap and exploit its subjects (the hidden camera or the reconstruction in current affairs formats, the surprise hostile guest in the talk show). (p. 52)

The sacrifice of truth was caused not only by the severe competition conditions. Regarding television programs one of the kind of art, the researches discussed the right of the producers for reflection of their personal picture of life in the shows, emphasizing the dubious role of television in the life if the society. Giles (2008) noted that “in terms of fictional drama the price of distortion may need to be weighed against the artistic freedom credited to the writers and producers” (p. 166).

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Denton used neither hidden cameras nor immense distortion of the facts in his show. His decision was different from the generally accepted view of the talk show or current affairs methods. Berkmoes (2008) noted that “Andrew Denton weaves a fascinating program that breaks out of the vacuous clichés of the chat show. The interviews mix big names (Cate Blanchet, Bill Clinton) with the ordinary (the scone-baking champion was a classic)” (p. 47). Denton changes the categories of the guests present at his show, not looking for a sensation, from one side, and shortening the distance between the guests, some of which appear to be ordinary people, and spectators, on the other hand. As it is cited in the Archive of the ABC Channel Denton noted that “The whole aim of the show is to find something new about a person through the research brief — we try and achieve that in every single interview” (More than Enough Rope). This statement explains the methods and format chosen by the author for his show. Enough Rope has never been regarded a “trash show”, meeting the main requirements of the high-quality mass media. This circumstance can explain the success of the program. In 2008 Denton decided to close the show, proving that it was not only a source of income but a work of art, requiring inspiration. Hjarvard (2003) noted that “Television producers must be in a position to master the television genre in relation to which viewers already developed evaluation criteria” (p. 152). Working in the genres of talk and current affairs shows, Denton managed not to reduce his program to low-quality one-day phenomenon.

As it is cited in the ABC Chanel Archive: “The show was named best light entertainment television series” (Curtain Comes Down on Enough Rope). Andrew Denton’s project influenced the further development of the mass media genres, demonstrating the unlimited opportunities of combination and alteration of the main elements of talk and current affairs genres. The producer and presenter proved that it is not the genre limitations that cause the mediocre programs but the producers’ motivation and lack of talent.

References

  1. Archive of ABC (Australian Broadcasting Television) (2008). Curtain Comes Down on Enough Rope. [online].
  2. Archive of ABC (Australian Broadcasting Television) (2008). More than Enough Rope. [online].
  3. Berkmoes, Ryan. (2008) East Coast Australia. Lonely Planet.
  4. Bignell, Jonathan. (2004) An Introduction to Television Studies. Routledge.
  5. Chater, Kathy.(2002) Research for Media Production. 2-nd edition. Focal Press.
  6. Edgerton, Gary R., Brian Rose (2005) Thinkng Outside the Box: A Contemporary Television Genre Reader. The University Press of Kentucky.
  7. Giles, David. (2008). Media Psychology. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers.
  8. Grindstaff, Laura. (2002) The Money Shot: Trash, Class, and the Making of TV Talk Shows. The University of Chicago Press.
  9. Hjarvard, Stig. (2003) Media in a Globalized Society. Museum Tusculanum Press.
  10. Holmes, David (2005). Communication Theory: Media, Technology and Society. SAGE Publications.
  11. Lumby, Catharine, Elspeth Probyn.(2003) Remote Control: New Media, New Ethics. Cambridge University Press.
  12. Timberg, Bernard, Bob Erler. (2002) Television Talk: A History of the TV Talk Show. University of Texas Press.
  13. Tolson, Andrew. (2001) Television Talk Shows: Discourse, Performance, Spectacle. Routledge.
  14. Turner, Graeme. (2005) Ending the affair: The Decline of Television Current Affairs in Australia. Routledge.
  15. Wood, Helen. (2009) Talking with Television: Women, Talk Shows, and Modern Self-Reflexivity. Unversity of Illinois Press.

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"“Enough Rope” by A. Denton as a Hybrid of Talk and Current Affairs Shows." StudyCorgi, 23 Nov. 2021, studycorgi.com/enough-rope-by-a-denton-as-a-hybrid-of-talk-and-current-affairs-shows/.

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StudyCorgi. "“Enough Rope” by A. Denton as a Hybrid of Talk and Current Affairs Shows." November 23, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/enough-rope-by-a-denton-as-a-hybrid-of-talk-and-current-affairs-shows/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "“Enough Rope” by A. Denton as a Hybrid of Talk and Current Affairs Shows." November 23, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/enough-rope-by-a-denton-as-a-hybrid-of-talk-and-current-affairs-shows/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Enough Rope” by A. Denton as a Hybrid of Talk and Current Affairs Shows'. 23 November.

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