Over here in sunny ol’ England (that was sarcasm – I was told to point this out as apparently you Americans don’t understand it) talk shows are largely fronted by campy mom-friendly sorts and paunchy middle-aged men. Come to think of it, we don’t really have any female hosts. The only possible exceptions I can think of are the gaggle of horny cougars that comprise the panel of ‘Loose Women’, a show that exists purely for the half-hearted amusement of housewives and the unemployed. In terms of talk shows its quality fits within the “I’d rather circumcise myself than watch this shit” category, and the only program that outdoes it in terms of awfulness is the vulgar The Jeremy Kyle Show.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Jeremy Kyle Show (I’m hoping for your sake that a lot of you are) it is basically the UK equivalent of The Jerry Springer Show, only its host is a hideously self-righteous tool who uses his minor public platform to elevate his own sense of self-worth. He wheels out a parade of ill-educated sub-humans in order to shout at them in front of a live audience, presumably to make up for his own inadequacies as a man; the only reason that you should be watching The Jeremy Kyle Show is if you are patiently waiting for its host to be bludgeoned by one of his unintelligible guests. (YouTube ‘Jeremy Kyle envelope launch’ to see this nearly happen.)
The only two hosts I can think of who have experienced the same level of adoration that their US counterparts have are Parkinson and Jonathan Ross, who have both now retired. So as far as talks shows go you Yanks have really got us beat, what with your Letterman’s and Conan’s and Kimmel’s. However, even they pale in comparison to that one almighty Goddess of conversation; I am, of course, talking about Oprah.
Like many Brits, I am completely oblivious to the impact Oprah has had on America. The evidence for it is overwhelming – she has her own magazine which features her on the cover of every issue, for God sake – but humorous YouTube videos of her being electrocuted by Tom Cruise aside, my viewing of any footage of The Oprah Winfrey Show has subsequently been nil. So for the sake of this article, I am about to change this. As this is a written article and not a TV show, you will have to imagine a montage of me sitting on my arse and watching Oprah in your heads. Starting… now.
I’m back. So from what I can gather, Oprah is a humanised hybrid of Friends Reunited and an ATM machine; she gets people on her show to either reward them with long lost family members or money/cars/KFC coupons. She seems warm and friendly enough, but the hoopla surrounding her still seems completely out of this world – if Jeremy Kyle had his own magazine with him on the cover each month it’d be deemed a national crisis.
So what exactly is it that you guys across the pond love about her so much to have prompted such an overwhelming response to her quitting her show? The penultimate show was watched by a live audience of 13,000 people. THIRTEEN THOUSAND PEOPLE. At one point she stands on an elevated cat-walk whilst 400 men holding candles walk by her side. We could never get away with that in Britain – if one of our chat show hosts conducts an interview wearing a particularly garish tie we all hurl insults at him the following morning.
I think therein lies the reason why Oprah-mania isn’t quite as prominent here in the UK; we Brits tend to encourage the notion that however much you have achieved in your lifetime, you should never ever celebrate it. Sure we have awards ceremonies and such, but we expect those who collect the trophies to accept them with a large pinch of salt and a huge degree of humility, and automatically judge them if they seem a bit too proud of themselves. If Mother Theresa had been born in England, we’d have all been fed up of her within 6 months; “She seems alright, but bloody hell she don’t half get on my nerves with all that charity work of hers.” For further proof of this you need only look at Bono or Bob Geldof.
The US as a whole seems a lot more appreciative of the grand spectacle of it all, and is a lot keener to reward celebrities for their achievements. Which is fine, if not my personal preference – I’m an acerbically pessimistic limey through and through and I’ll be damned if I’m forced to enthusiastically clap those who are vastly richer than myself. When all’s said and done, though, it’s hard to disagree with the fact that Oprah and her American comrades well and truly dwarf our own British chat show hosts. After all, back in 2004 Oprah gave away 276 Pontiac G6’s. Last time I checked, Kyle was still giving away pregnancy tests.
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