Episode 29 – Maury

 

This episode: Maury, “Greatest Hits” according to the Nosey app curators.  Watch it on Nosey.

Next episode: My Super Sweet 16: Season 1, Eps. 1, 3, 5-6, Season 5, Eps. 1, 7, 9, and Season 10, Eps. 1-3, 5-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month ‘THE RESULTS ARE IN!’ for our listener’s choice poll on trashy talk TV and the masses (all one of you) cried out for us to discuss the long-running and infamous Maury Povich show.  It was particularly fitting as JS had some teenage nostalgia, but will it carry through?

Turns out after opening the envelope that the answer is no…as JS found the show to be crushing whereas Mike channeled his deep-seated reservoir of inner cold-heartedness and stunted empathy to more or less manage to enjoy the spectacle.

That being said, we had a pretty lively discussion about the show’s tone and worldview, particularly in comparison to its contemporaries like Jerry Springer, and how this show uses ‘science’ in an interesting way to center its conflicts over paternity and infidelity (and what that may say about its place in our overall culture).  We then discuss an interesting graduate thesis outlining the genre’s history and its particular emphasis on social class, both regarding its participants and its viewers (and which also has your humble podcast hosts dead to rights).  Finally, we end on an analysis of the various chicanery the production team utilizes to cajole its audience and guests into their preferred narratives and discuss the show’s viewership demographics and offer a theory of its overall appeal.

Show Notes and Links

1:14 / Giving our podcast a paternity test

1:53 / Introducing this month’s show

2:38 / The episodes we covered and their unclear provenance

4:36 / The “very, very high” concept and structure of this show

7:40 / Asking JS about his ‘Maury Memories’ (we repeatedly reference Jerry Springer, here and throughout the episode)

8:42 / How JS’s experience for the show differed from his recollection

10:05 / JS didn’t enjoy himself as much the second time around

10:41 / Mike’s impressions of the show (he had never seen it before)

11:38 / The epitome of a ‘guilty pleasure’ for Mike and an uncomfortable experience for JS

12:37 / Comparing this to Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives in terms of its repetition

13:30 / Does this have a narrative?  Opinions differ.  (The Grantland article Mike mentions throughout the show; Mike also mentions the Greek playwright Aristophanes)

14:24 / How the tone of the show evolved over time (Mike mentions The Phil Donahue Show)

15:39 / Comparing the tone of this to Jerry Springer (some clips from the I Married A Horse episode in this YouTube reaction video, the episode with Justin Pearson)

17:11 / What is and isn’t authentic in this show

18:11 / Talking about the ‘Double DNA test’ segment

19:30 / There was a correlation between how authentic the show got and how uncomfortable it was

20:10 / Coming back to the worldview and comparing it with Springer – small ‘c’ conservatism in a tawdry package (our discussion of this in Episode 1)

22:45 / JS was shocked at the longevity of this show, went in thinking that he was going to watch something from the 90’s

24:24 / Mike thinks there’s something about daytime television that lends itself to long-running formulas (mentions a bunch of shows: Divorce Court, Geraldo, Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown, Ricki Lake, Jenny Jones, Steve Wilkos, Trisha Goddard)

25:47 / Segueing into the role of polygraphs and paternity tests – ‘moment of truth’

27:11 / Discussing the reliability (or lack thereof) of polygraph tests – in contrast to their presentation on the show

29:35 / People don’t want to hear about uncertainty and probability – they want ‘The Truth’

30:10 / Mike goes on a digression about the fetishization of DNA in modern American culture (he mentions recent cold cases in DNA testing, a lawsuit over ancestry and affirmative action, and Spotify DNA playlists – this was before Elizabeth Warren’s DNA test or else we probably would have mentioned that too – guess she should have listened to this segment!)

31:44 / The difference between ancestry and culture and how we often blur the distinction

33:02 / Mike segues to a comparison in terms of paternity DNA tests not being ‘family relationship’ tests

34:23 / JS pushes back a little, mentions that nature as well as nurture can be an influence on someone even if identity through DNA has been fetishized

35:20 / JS found the ‘paternity’ segments easier to stomach given the more solid foundations of the science

36:11 / Mike agrees that you have some heritable qualities, but not much outside of certain medical conditions can be discerned from a test – his critique of the show’s use of them is its implication that the ‘truth’ of paternity will necessarily lead to the building of a social relationship

37:41 / Mike’s difficulties in finding an article and our continuing plunder of the free labor of graduate students

38:52 / Introducing this month’s thesis: “Hate Watching Trash TV: Intersections of Class and Anti-Fandom” by Milena Stanoeva of York University (Ontario), which was submitted in August 2016

39:58 / The origin and evolution of the ‘talk show’ from social issues to ‘trash TV’ (Mike mentions “freak shows” and Oprah Winfrey’s show)

41:10 / Talk show as meeting between middle class values and lower class emotionalism; how different viewers process the shows based on social class

42:04 / The host as the stand-in for the white middle class – calm, rational, objective, interested in ‘the truth’ – as opposed to the mostly African-American and lower-class guests

43:20 / Applying this analysis to Maury and the larger ‘therapeutic’ scaffolding of the ‘show experts’ (Mike namedrops Foucault obligatorily)

44:52 / JS thought the ‘carnival’ comparison was compelling (Mike mentions the Jerry Springer movie Ringmaster).

46:02 / Mike mentions the audience demographics (low-income, 50% African-American) and theorizes that this show functions as a form of social distancing in addition to being a conduit of middle class respectability

48:00 / Mike describes the process for recruiting participants and how this gives producers the ability to shape the narrative (A round-up of all the dirt is here)

48:47 / How the production crew manipulates the audience and the guests to respond in predetermined ways (One blogger describes being in the audience here)

50:38 / The guest monologues reminded Mike of Divorce Court

51:40 / JS brings us back to our success/failure dichotomy and our Diners comparison

53:51 / Mike enjoyed the show, even though he knew it was horribly unethical, because he’s a terrible person

54:32 / JS thinks being a parent has made him more emotionally vulnerable, which made him more negatively affected by this show (Our Toddlers and Tiaras episode)

56:16 / Mike’s weak justification – they all signed up for this

57:08 / Updates to availability for shows from previous episodes: 90 Day Fiance and Foxy Ladies

58:34 / Another episode with Dave is on the way: My Super Sweet 16!

58:59 / JS’s next pick – Season 1 of the MTV show Catfish

1:00:27 / The usual announcements: contact us, rate/review, and subscribe

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