Variety is the spice for panel TV showsBy Nestor U. Torre
Philippine Daily Inquirer
It all began with “The View,” the all-female talk-panel show that put unlikely bedfellows like Barbara Walters and Whoopi Goldberg together, and invited them to trade opinions or barbs on a wide range of topics.
The idea was to find spice in their wildly divergent views—as well as hopefully clarifying light.
It’s a bit like putting a viper, a mongoose, an elephant and a mouse together in the same cage and waiting to find out which contentious creature will be the first one to bite, or to lie down and play dead.
Well, “The View” is still on the air, although its hosts have been shuffled and changed through the years, so the feisty formula works. In fact, it’s doing so well that it’s been shamelessly copied or more subtly tweaked by other programs on the tube, like “The Talk.”
Most of the time, the borrowing has been done not for a full show but only for a portion of it, like the “Professionals” minichat fest and debate on “Today,” where the opinionators and reactors are of decidedly mixed genders.
In other reincarnations, the format has been done as an all-male panel on a show for women—the idea being that women want to know what men think on a wide variety of topics.
On the minus side, this “instant dispenser of opinions” format can make its panelists come off as too glib, too know-it-all, too eager to shoot their mouths off. So, they sometimes end up shooting themselves in the foot!
It also deludes viewers into thinking that making a quick value judgment based only on sketchy and shallow bits of information is the smart way to go. Not!
Worse, it tempts viewers to jump on the trendy bandwagon and turn witty and with-it commentators and opinionators themselves—with disastrous consequences!
The much better way would be for panelists on TV to take more time discussing an issue before coming up with their take on it.
So, no more “smorgasbord” chat fests, please. Rather, concentrate on only one event or personality, and reserve other “hot” topics for succeeding days.
This may not come off as “brilliantly” versatile as the ack-ack approach, but it will show viewers that “opinionating” is a tough process that has a huge responsibility attached to it.
Come to think of it, panels on TV are a new expression of the “instant” and “throwaway” culture that so many people favor and vivify these days. If we can have instant coffee, quickie sex, and “overnight” success, why not instant opinions, too?
Because (reality check, folks) opinions worth listening to and taking seriously should lead to insights that expand our understanding, not just fill our heads and ears with sassily smug and quotable pronouncements, “motherhood” statements repeated ad absurdum and knee-jerk tweets for twits!
It also isn’t helpful for a panelist to declare that he’s for or against something or someone just because “this is me, that’s just what I feel in my heart, or guts!”
Alas, real thinking, cogitating and opinionating should involve the brain most of all, not so much the other organs in the human anatomy. Going, going, groin?
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