Although much controversy exists about the value of television talk shows, there is an absence of empirical investigation into the nature of these shows. The goal of this research was to analyze the titles from six months of the eleven top-rated television talk shows and corresponding content from one month of these shows. Results indicated that family relationships tended to be portrayed in predominantly negative ways. Personal relationships tended to be portrayed as neutral or negative. Analyses of corresponding content in the form of types of disclosures were conducted. On average, viewers were exposed to over 13 sexual activity, sexual orientation, embarrassing situation, abuse, and criminal disclosures per one hour talk show. Sexual activity disclosures occurred significantly more often in personal relationship shows, sexual orientation and embarrassing situation disclosures occurred significantly more often in positive topic personal relationship shows, while abuse disclosures occurred significantly more often in negative relationship topic shows. Individual attributes most often portrayed were sexual activity, personality traits, criminal behavior, celebrity status, anger, and appearance. An analysis of the valence of personality traits revealed that they, too, were portrayed predominantly in a negative manner. The findings are discussed in terms of the ways that television talk show events may function to distort viewer's judgments about close relationships.
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