Anatomy of a Talk Show


Menstuff® has compiled the following information on how one particular television talk show "set up" men.

Anatomy of a Talk Show
Notes from the 2/19/86 Donahue show titled "Men, Sex & Power"
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 Anatomy of a Talk Show


While going through my files on the men's movement, I ran across a folder that brought back a lot of memories. It one of the few shows Donahue did where men actually got to talk a bit. The date, February 19, 1986. The show "Men, Sex & Power" from a workshop that Justine Sterling created. In fact, a number of the men in the audience had taken that program, and gave their gorilla growls (sort of like Tim does on "Home Improvement") The show featured five men on the stage and two plants in the audience. Donahue walked around the audience making statements and asking questions. In his hand were typed reference notes prepared by his producers. (See below.) One page had a paragraph on each man on stage: name, what he does for work, marital and children status, and a few words taken from phone interviews (1). A second sheet has information on the two plants in the audience (3) and statements that they made that Donahue goes off on later in the show. Next, he's got a full page on each one of the five guests. Some of them note statements the men made that the staff knows will get negative audience reaction. They are usually in bold type. Leonard Goldstein (6), Tom Kelley (5), Tony Smith (9), Stuart Blaustein (8) who calls himself a male feminist and Ken Druck (2), who wrote The Secrets Men Keep. Another sheet lists what was to come up during the show on the Chiron (4) and another about tape insert of Goldie Hawn, which one of the men talked about in his interview, with in and out lines from the 1:04 minute tape (7). It even included "group applause" typed in at the end. I wish I still had the tape of the show. I think I sent it to Michigan State University which has a large Changing Men collection in its campus library. I remember three major things about this show. On the notes about Ken Druck, near the bottom a reminder to Donahue "Don't forget to talk about the BEER DRINKING..." It's a way to become just one of the boys"...And you certainly know what all that leads to." with a big underline here. which was Donahue's cue to do his drunk impression "Honey I'm home." which looked like it came from personal experience more than role-playing. He did the impression often, usually when there weren't many men in the audience. The second, was his interview with one of the plants, which I'm sure they put up on purpose to make men look bad. I was embarrassed for men. Third, at the end, Donahue shows his disgust, throws the script down and walks off. Thanks, Phil. That's how I got a copy of the script. A friend of a friend of a friend picked it up. Donahue was famous for finding ways to put men down, usually when they weren't present. On the few shows where men were the focal point, there was almost always a woman on stage to refute whatever they had to say. Not so when it was women talking about the Dead Beat Dad or the Broken Relationship or Spousal Abuse. Only one side of those stories were allowed. He only did one show on circumcision the whole time he was on the air, and swore he would never present that subject again. He did two that I remember on Fathers, over two years apart. Each had an audience full of dads and kids, from babies to pre-teens. I remember one comment he made was something to the effect that he must have all the single dads in the country right there in the studio. Another jab at men. Another show had men who had been physically abused by their wives, including stab wounds and women in the audience who admitted to being violent toward their husbands. One woman was telling her story. She was angry that the police had cuffed her and taken her to the station, during the time her husband was being taken to the hospital in an ambulance. Phil asked what she did and she said she threw a staple gun at him, it bounced off the wall, hit him in the head with enough force to require something like 20 stitches. Donahue quips, "Oh, a bank shot, eh?" And the audience laughs.

Donahue is off the air now but there have been plenty of talk-show hosts to replace him. They now get unsuspecting guys on who think the show is about patching up their relationship when it's really "How to Dump Your Boyfriend" on national TV. I've been on my share of talk-shows, from Oprah to Hour Magazine, and a number of local talk shows. You can really see, once you know, how it's set up, usually not to present men in a positive light, though around 1/3 of the television viewing audience of these shows are men. There was an exception in one program on Donahue - and believe me, I used to tape three talk shows a day and edit them by subject so I had seen a lot of talk shows and how men are treated. It was during the summer and Phil was on vacation. They taped what had originally been planned for one hour, which he watched from home. He got so excited about the show that he had them continue taping to make a second show so he could get down to the studio for it. (I remember we didn't get to see it in San Francisco because KGO-TV decided it didn't want it and did a re-run, as I remember, that was very male negative.) Now, most producers try to set things up especially to trigger a man into making a fool of himself. One of the women said something like, "Well, do you drum and run around nude in the woods?" Joe Laur, a man that does week long survival trainings for men in the wilderness, took a deep breath, looked at the woman, and in a nonjudgmental, no reactive way said, "What do you think?" At the end of the taping, Donahue, who was off screen in jeans and a shirt, was coaxed on stage, was asked to honor his father and grandfather, Phil and Phil, and left the stage, appearing somewhat embarrassed. Ironically, Ken Druck was also on this show, years after the original one. It was one of the cleanest, most honest portrayals of men doing their work and the talk show honestly presenting it without a lot of manipulation, ploys and shame. And, while it didn't make up for all the other put-downs of men who were really working to change their lives for the betterment of everyone around them, it was a welcomed start..

Notes from the 2/19/86 Donahue show titled "Men, Sex & Power"


Here are Donahue's 9 pages of notes. They were originally on 8 1/2 x 11 paper. The only alteration I made was to trim the blank sides to make the type larger and still work within the format for this web site.

1. , 2. , 3. , 4. , 5. ,

6. , 7. , 8. , 9. .

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