As Oprah Winfrey and Larry King vacate their lounge chairs as queen and king of talk TV, South Africa is waking up to the entertainment value of talk shows.
In the past month alone, three talk shows have emerged on local television. Whether or not they are any good seems to be a contentious issue because TV-watching inner circles giggle and smirk at the ridiculousness of it all.
Let’s take The View... I mean, No Reservations. Basetsana Kumalo, Carol Bouwer, Katy Mohamed and Michelle Garforth sitting on couches in some fancy house has not inspired confidence, largely because they are so out of tune with reality. The four are all about their perfect lives, perfect husbands, kids, money and glamour. In a recent episode, a smug Kumalo even addressed her husband on camera.
As a viewer, I expect some level of engagement between myself and the host of the show. I don’t want to feel like I am the nerdy, fat girl at school who is not cool enough to sit on that couch. Unfortunately, that’s how Kumalo & Co make viewers feel.
Then there’s Redi Direko’s Redi on Mzansi show. I readily say that the style team – including the hair, make-up and wardrobe people – need to be fired pronto! A poor girl’s version of a Barbie doll? Not cool. The weave, rosy cheeks and outlandish outfits all make her look like a wannabe first lady instead of a funky chat show host. And while I may not be an expert in the behind-the-scenes stuff of TV, the camera work on the show is extremely shoddy. Placing Direko in a four-inch box like a newsreader doesn’t help the show either. The content of Direko’s show is swallowed in chunks by the artificial atmosphere in the room, which is such a pity because I had such high hopes for her.
Last on the list is Trevor Noah’s Tonight with Trevor. Er, firstly, what happened to Gareth Cliff’s talk show in the same slot on the same channel? Was Noah, who was Cliff’s first guest on his show, so good that the producers decided he should replace Cliff? Noah is good to look at and damn funny too, but that little unresolved matter of “joke stealing” has taken some of the gloss off him. Let’s hope that doesn’t affect the show.
The point here is that these talk shows haven’t moved away from what Felicia Mabuza-Suttle did all those years ago – minus the live audience and the tears, of course.
These shows have yet to embrace the fun and fresh elements of Ellen, the hilarity of the Graham Norton Show and the sheer brilliance of Chelsea Lately.
Local talk show hosts need to be commanding, engaging and credible without sounding pompous. Let’s revisit the drawing board to rescue our talk show genre.