The guests talk about what other shows they are on or movies they are in (show biz feeding itself), where they were born and to whom they are married or whom they are dating (gossip), when they started doing whatever they are famous for, and other topics that are trivial to the rest of us.
It's all very narcissistic. They are promoting themselves and the shows they are in, or on, or directing.
These topics are not in themselves compelling or fascinating or even remotely interesting. Yet people watch. By the millions. Why?
Where do these people on TV get all that power, to command all that attention?
My theory is that the power comes from the attention itself. It's like being at a dinner party. Notice the way the center of attention moves around the room, one person telling a story, another complaining about politics, another chatting about their husband or wife or child.
We all watch and listen, and we are not just being polite. We are genuinely interested. At the moment. Why? Just because we are all paying attention. It's some kind of basic human need, to pay attention and be paid attention to.
And of course TV concentrates that power and gives the people onscreen the added aura of celebrity, even if we have never heard of them before and will probably never see them again. Just being on TV is a big deal. All those eyes on me, or you, or them. A sense of heightened awareness. A feeding frenzy of attention. We do love it, don't we, as a culture?
These TV talk shows take the place of real conversations, I think. No matter how mundane and banal they are.
I sat for more than two hours Thursday night in a TV studio audience and watched four people have a boring, trivial, inane conversation. I laughed and applauded when I was told to, like a trained seal. I didn't eat or drink or talk when I was not supposed to.
I made nice, like everyone else. All for a TV show.
My new friend Cathy B, who likes this kind of thing, and I went to CBS Television City in LA for the taping of "Rove LA." The host is an Aussie, Rove McManus, apparently a TV star and comedian in Australia.
About a hundred people sat in the studio from about 6:30 till almost 9:00 p.m. and applauded and laughed on command (belly laugh, chuckles, louder, softer, longer) and watched a trivial conversation that was to last about an hour on the air.
There must've been a dozen staff members there, working the four or five cameras, directing the audience and the camera people, doing makeup and tending to the needs of the host and his guests.
Rove's guests were Kevin Smith, (director of "Clerks" and "Red State"), Anna Faris, cute young actress (three Scary Movies, among many, many others), and Daniel McPhereson ("Wild Boys" and several others).
We learned that Kevin Smith does a podcast every morning with his wife. Anna Faris has worn see-through panties on the sets of movies. Daniel McPhereson has worn a "cock-sock" for sex scenes, and one time the sock came off.
Oh boy, fascinating stuff.
Frankly, my friends are more interesting. Maybe the people who watch these shows don't have any friends. Or maybe their friends are very, very dull.
I don't have the answer. But it is a strange world we live in. Attention itself confers a certain power and fulfills a certain need. Maybe we all need it, and maybe that is what this is all about.
I must admit I had a good time, like going to the zoo, to see what strange things people do.