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American Television, Talk Shows  
 
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According to Gamson, however, the ex-husband's lies were partly scripted by the show itself. While the cameras were rolling, guests were told to tell the truth, while off camera guests and audiences alike were encouraged to perform narrow and sometimes flat-out dishonest versions of themselves in order to fit the show's script.

Oprah Winfrey, whose show featured a scenario similar to that on Sally Jessy Raphael, grew increasingly tired of talk show sensationalism and, in 1995, reverted to a format more in line with Donahue's more decorous discussions. Oprah's ratings, however, dropped in response to this format change.

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Viewers had, by the mid-1990s, become accustomed to guests and audiences making lurid spectacles of themselves. Many shows depended on conflict as a major key to attract viewing audiences and, as Meredith Berkman has observed, much of this conflict was endorsed and, indeed, encouraged by the shows' corporate executives. These conflicts would typically occur in response to surprise revelations, and would usually degenerate into fistfights and profanity-laced verbal exchanges. However, another type of conflict, the unexpected ambush, had deadly consequences.

On March 9, 1995, three days after appearing on an episode of The Jenny Jones Show that was secretly entitled "Secret Same-Sex Crushes," Jonathan Schmitz, a 24-year-old heterosexual, arrived at the mobile home of 32-year-old homosexual Scott Amedure. Within a matter of minutes, Schmitz shot Amedure twice at close range and killed him. Schmitz contended that the show had lied to him about the sex of his secret admirer, and the humiliation was so great when it was revealed that Amedure was the admirer that he was driven to kill.

Representing Schmitz in the wrongful death suit brought by Amedure's family, attorney Geoffrey Fieger argued that the motive for Amedure's murder was a case of homosexual panic and alleged that The Jenny Jones Show was at least partially responsible for the killing.

Although there was no scientific basis for this disturbing argument, psychologist Robert Cabaj has stated that many people find it understandable that a man would kill another man who professes a sexual attraction to him. Indeed, as Gamson has noted, what upset the public was not Amedure's death but, rather, his homosexuality.

Talking Backlash

In the wake of Amedure's murder and the subsequent $25 million award against The Jenny Jones Show, other purveyors of trash television began to curtail the appearances of glbt people on their daytime talk shows.

The wildly popular Jerry Springer Show began to traffic almost exclusively in heterosexual relationships gone horribly awry. When Springer first appeared in 1991, however, his guest rosters routinely featured drag queens, drag kings, gay teenagers, lesbians, and club kids (young queers who frequent dance clubs and dress outrageously both in and out of the clubs).

Although Springer shares with his talk show kin a semblance of tolerance towards sexual non-conformists, he has frequently wondered aloud why queers so often seem to flaunt their sexuality, almost to the point of exaggeration.

This sentiment is an accurate insight into the thinking of what Springer terms polite society. Indeed talk shows are significant because they at once make sexual and gender nonconformity public and visible and also provide venues for the societal anxieties and hostilities that sexual and gender nonconformists evoke.

As gay men and lesbians have increasingly been accepted as part of mainstream society, however, the need for talk shows overtly to emphasize queer presences has decreased significantly. In fact, glbt people have moved from talk show audience members and participants and become hosts of their own shows.

Talking Queerly

Following the meteoric rise in the popularity of such shows as The Jerry Springer Show and The Ricki Lake Show, which debuted in 1993, network television executives began creating talk shows for numerous celebrities and television personalities. Show hosts included Tempestt Bledsoe, who played Vanessa Huxtable on the hit NBC comedy The Cosby Show, and Danny Bonaduce, former kid star on the 1970s sitcom The Partridge Family.

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