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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Episode 27 – Foxy Ladies

 

This episode: Foxy Ladies, Season 1.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.  Watch it on Tubi TV.

Next episode: Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, Season 22, Eps. 2-6, 8.  Watch it on Hulu.

This month we have a special episode as Mike made the trek across the country to visit JS and we decided to do a ‘live-in-studio’ episode (aka recorded on a mic sitting between us on a card table), so there’s a bit more ambient noise than usual, but hopefully the quality should suffice.

Anyway, this month’s show provoked quite a bit of divergence in opinion as Mike more or less enjoyed it for what it was and JS had to bottle up his disdain for a month and has some grievances to get off his chest.  That being said, we eventually get into the usual talk of concept and structure and give our opinions on the rather large cast of characters and their personal travails.  Then we discuss how this show interacts with class and gender, particularly in comparison to the other ‘occupational’ reality show we reviewed, Highway Through Hell.  This discussion then leads us to our article, which analyzes the relationships between masculinity, sex, and work.  We apply the theories of the article to the two different shows and delve into how the occupations they depict differ both in their ‘cultural cache’ and in the narratives that unfold for their different reality television audiences.  Finally, we end with why we believe this show failed to be renewed and how its attempts to straddle two different audiences might have fallen short.

Show Notes and Links

1:04 / Welcoming you all to a very special live-in-studio episode

1:51 / Introducing this month’s show

2:30 / Our personal differences on the quality of this show

4:40 / The concept and structure of this show

6:08 / A brief diversion into JS’s favorite scene

6:55 / A low-rent Vanderpump Rules

7:35 / Our previous knowledge of the ‘bikini barista’ phenomenon

8:33 / What’s the appeal of a ‘bikini barista’ joint?

10:10 / A digression into food and their excellent website (no nudity, but prepare for some side-eye if you click on this at work or in front of Grandman)

10:51 / Mike’s experiences with Olympia, WA (Mike mentions Evergreen State College)

11:50 / Going over some of the themes for the various episodes

12:35 / JS makes a pitch for a new sponsor

13:27 / The owners of the chain are listed as executive producers

15:28 / Segueing into the cast of characters

15:43 / Kallai – single mother, veteran, manager, recovered addict

16:56 / Dalilah – other manager, relationship issues, history of DUIs

17:45 / Arielle – pastor’s daughter, single mother, boyfriend in jail

19:33 / Mike’s two cents on the characters mentioned

21:00 / A common thread (?) – questionable judgement

21:34 / Why Mike found Dalilah less sympathetic than the other characters

23:41 / Chrystal – recovering alcoholic, cosplayer, Etsy entrepreneur

25:40 / Arianna – newlywed, aspiring manager, most stable

27:53 / Paul and Yulia – owners (K-1 visas are a reference to our episode on 90 Day Fiance)

29:20 / Their story hits the typical beats of the ‘business owner’ narrative (our Highway Through Hell episode comes recommended as a companion to this discussion)

31:00 / The business expansion subplot

32:15 / Stephanie – operations manager, victim of a hatchet-job (?)

33:38 / Jaslin – the one whose name we couldn’t remember, put someone in a coma at 16

34:52 / Ashley – outlier, educational aspirations

36:42 / JS’s plausible theory on the transition from Ashley to Jaslin as the ancillary barista

37:13 / Mike enjoyed Ashley ditching Dalilah during the ad contest

38:02 / The photoshoot as an example of the disconnect between Ashley and the others (future orientation vs. orientation to the here-and-now)

40:42 / The social ties and the divide between ‘education’ and ‘here-and-now’ struck Mike as an authentic representation of this type of entry-level service-sector workplace

41:20 / Bringing Highway Through Hell back in – how representations of occupational reality TV are affected by gender

44:05 / JS would have liked this more if it did focus on the occupational aspects

45:04 / The issue of class (and financial compensation) in the level of ‘openness’ to having personal issues on television (ex. Ashley)

46:50 / We had a suspicion that the personal issues in both shows were similar, but that gender and audience shaped the narrative in terms of depictions of ‘work-life balance’

49:10 / Coming back and looking at the narrative in the finale in more depth

51:15 / The relationships that seemed more long-lasting and authentic worked much better in the finale’s narrative

53:32 / Transitioning to the article, “Masculinity, Labor, and Sexual Power”, Ann C. McGinley, 2013, Scholarly Commons at UNLV School of Law (Article mentions Hanna Rosin’s book The End of Men)

56:51 / Delving more into the topic of post-industrial transition (although Trump is going to bring back all the jobs!)

58:36 / The gendered nature of different occupations; discussing orthopedics and its connection to sport

1:00:44 / The idea of ‘head of household’ and ‘protector’ as last refuge of hegemonic masculinity

1:01:16 / Bringing it back to the show – huge contrast in both gendered aspect and cultural cache of jobs depicted in both Foxy Ladies and Highway Through Hell

1:03:27 / Disentangling the ‘bikini’ aspect from the ‘barista’ aspect in our cultural expectations; discussing the link between sex and work for working-class women (Mike forgot to mention it, but this even goes into ‘professional’ women – think of all the sexualization in pop culture around nurses, secretaries, etc)

1:04:41 / The double-edged nature of sex work (freedom to sell what you have on the market vs. commodification of women’s bodies)

1:06:25 / Returning to the idea of cultural cache of different occupations

1:08:15 / The skills involved in being a (bikini) barista – the ‘taste test’ segment of one episode (JS also briefly mentions his past working at good old Dunkin’ Donuts)

1:11:10 / Why wasn’t this show successful?  Bad luck or bad show?

1:12:28 / Vanderpump Rules as an example of this formula being successful

1:13:46 / Show likely was intended to be televised episodically, but doesn’t seem to have been picked up

1:14:19 / Where JS thought they went wrong – tried to straddle the audience of a ‘male gaze’-oriented show and a more ‘feminine’ show about women’s personal issues

1:16:14 / Mike thought the second-half shift to the personal was what made the show interesting to discuss

1:17:33 / Returning to gender and Highway Through Hell – imagining an attempt to pitch it to a more ‘female’ audience

1:18:04 / Final thoughts and last-minute grievances (our episode on Blind Date)

1:18:38 / Announcing next month’s episode

1:19:49 / Last call for our apathetic listeners to go vote on our listener’s choice poll

1:21:09 / The usual stuff: contact us, rate or review, and subscribe to us

Episode 15 – Toddlers & Tiaras

 

This week’s discussion: Toddlers and Tiaras, Season 7, Eps. 1-5. Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Judge Faith, Season 2, Eps. 1-4, 7-10.  Watch it on Amazon Prime Video. Watch it on YouTube.

This week we tackled the infamous TLC show Toddlers & Tiaras.  JS begins with an apology to our listeners and declares it the worst show he’s ever seen, whereas Mike offers a somewhat qualified defense of the show (though definitely not the people – who are the worst).

After our recriminations and the usual recap of concept and structure, we delve into the show’s point-of-view and how it is reflected in its editing choices.  We also discuss the topics of beauty and gender standards, how these pageants sexualize minors, ritualistic nature of beauty pageant culture, the links between beauty pageantry and social conservatism, and the role of social class and economics.  Of course, we continually return to how troubling this is as well as finishing up with an exploration of whether this show has any redeeming social value or is merely wallowing in salaciousness.

Show Notes and Links

1:31 / Introducing this week’s show (with bonus apology from JS)

2:21 / JS thinks this is the worst show he’s ever seen

2:52 / Mike explains why he didn’t think this was the worst (although the people are); mentions Monica the Medium and Keys to the VIP

4:41 / The concept of the show

7:08 / This isn’t the first ‘rodeo’ for many of these families

8:08 / Talking about the exception: single dad at first pageant

9:28 / Covering the awards ceremony (and the ridiculous award names)

10:40 / These parents don’t accept second place

12:00 / Delving into the pageant judges and directors

14:15 / Segueing into the show’s point-of-view; Mike mentions Bridezillas

14:52 / The editing choices were revealing

16:41 / Money is a frequent topic

17:13 / The motif of bribing kids with sugar and caffeine

19:33 / Parsing the difference between disapproving of the parents and the pageant

20:36 / Mike was rubbed the wrong way by many of the judges’ comments

22:27 / Mike’s theory of why the pageant footage is edited differently

24:02 / Talking about the intended audience; see our Finding Bigfoot episode for our take on the decline of educational cable channels

25:09 / Show possibly geared towards mothers; contrasting the appeal of the show to Snooki and JWoww: Moms with Attitude

26:53 / How this show could potentially appeal to ‘pageant moms’

27:19 / Transitioning to a discussion on what this show says about beauty and gender standards

28:08 / The artificiality of the beauty standard was revealing

29:04 / The problematic message of adult beauty pageants is even more amplified when it involves children who cannot meaningfully consent

31:24 / The two objections to child beauty pageants: consent and sexualization

34:12 / The ritualistic aspects of child beauty pageantry; Mike makes a possibly melodramatic comparison to ‘female circumcision

36:17 / JS poses a question to Mike

37:38 / Coming back to traditionalist gender roles and the Southern regional aspect (Correction: one was also in California, but the larger point stands)

39:07 / The relationship between social conservatism and beauty pageant culture

41:45 / Talking about our (limited) experience with (adult) beauty pageants

43:24 / Discussing the role of social class and economics

44:40 / Mike noticed a positive correlation between wealth and winning

45:15 / JS begrudgingly gives the show his one kudos

46:06 / Returning to the vast amounts of money spent on the dresses

46:47 / Seems to be no real monetary return for these pageants

49:03 / Speculating (somewhat baselessly) into the economics of holding a beauty pageant

51:08 / We’d call it a con, but these parents seem to have no illusions of wealth

52:02 / Exploring the parents’ motivations: validation, living vicariously, and ‘winning’ (not ‘confidence’)

54:57 / Participation trophies are ‘ruining society’

55:45 / Does this show have social value or is it wallowing in titillation?

57:15 / JS thought the social value was held back by the fact that there are bigger problems in the world

59:40 / Mike wonders whether this dichotomy is so strict (Is there inherent tension between sensationalism and exposé?)

1:01:17 / Mike imagines the response to this show would depend on the viewer, which has disturbing implications

1:01:55 / Mike found the show both more interesting and more depressing than he expected, even if it wasn’t Edward R. Murrow; thought the show would be light-hearted camp

1:02:53 / Comparing this show to America’s Next Most Smartest Model and America’s Next Top Model; JS found how it puts children into an adult setting objectionable

1:05:12 / Announcing the next episode (You can refresh yourself on our Divorce Court episode here)

1:08:50 / The usual: email us, rate/review, and subscribe

Episode 5 – Divorce Court

 

This week’s discussion: Divorce Court, Season 17, Eps. 1-7.  Watch it on Hulu.

Next week’s discussion: Dual Survival, Season 3, Eps. 1-5.  Watch it on Hulu.

This week your esteemed hosts show up for their first stint of jury duty – reality TV style – and JS is not thrilled.  Nevertheless, we gamely tackle the first seven episodes of Season 17 of the long-running court TV franchise Divorce Court.

We begin by running down the typical format of an episode, discussing the constructed nature of the TV courtroom and how both Judge Toler and the show as a whole compare to the other shows in the genre.  Then we delve briefly into each individual episode and give our thoughts, paying particular attention to the rather stark variation in the show’s tone, and wrap up our recap by touching on some of the overall motifs common to the episodes we watched.

We then analyze the economics of court TV, as well as the heavily disproportionate representation of black claimants on the show and what it means.  After analyzing to which degree this is a product of the show’s audience or it’s producers, we take a look at the appeal of the show’s worldview and Mike offers some criticism of its take on social class and the overall ‘justice’ of the world at large.

Show Notes and Links

1:07 / Introducing the show

2:26 / High concept (WARNING: Title may not be fully accurate)

3:16 / The first of many mentions about the vast tonal variation

4:24 / The fabricated nature of the ‘courtroom’

5:08 / The format of a typical episode

6:00 / Beginning our discussion of Judge Toler

6:36 / Comparing her to other TV judges (Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown)

8:00 / Judge Toler’s optimism

9:00 / Comparing the rulings (or lack thereof) to other courtroom shows

10:11 / This show could easily be called ‘Relationship Counselor’ instead of ‘Divorce Court’ (with the bonus deep cut about constitutional legal theory that our fans all love)

11:04 / Discussing the qualifications of a judge to give relationship advice

13:40 / Mike thought her background as a judge made her pretty fair-minded

15:14 / A brief primer on the show’s history (and format iterations)

16:11 / Judge Toler’s intros

16:38 / Episode 1 – Anger problems and familial chaos

17:45 / This episode is pretty realistic – set our expectations accordingly

19:15 / Actual money on the line – a rarity in this series

20:04 / Why Mike had JS keep watching until Episode 7

20:55 / The difference in the intros and outros in different seasons

21:18 / Even Judge Toler’s optimism has limits

22:05 / Episode 2 – Alcoholism and social class

22:45 / Stuck out to Mike as optimistic – marriage could be probably be salvaged if husband could get help for his drinking problem

23:43 / Episode 3 – Body image and small difficulties

24:40 / JS thought this was the most realistic episode

25:10 / JS praises Judge Toler’s advice to this young couple

26:07 / The couple’s youth stuck out to JS – perhaps they be may not be as cynical and jaded (as Mike)

26:38 / Episode 4 – Cohabitation and animosity

27:19 / Judge Toler indulges in a bit of apophasis (For more of Mike butchering Greek terms, check out Episode 3)

27:56 / The role of sex (and other personal issues) in the show

28:29 / Stood out as a couple who will not work things out

29:23 / Episode 5 – ‘Redbones’ and bingo

30:51 / JS needed to consult Urban Dictionary for this episode

31:36 / Does this couple even want to split up?  Or are they there for the exposure and the paycheck?

32:09 / ‘Ghetto’ stereotypes and the ‘pull up your pants’ speech

33:11 / A brief digression into appearance fees

34:12 / The role of embellishment in some of the wackier episodes

35:15 / If we had only watched Episodes 1-4, this podcast would be completely different

35:59 / The relationships covered are all over the map

37:43 / Episode 6 – Colorful claimants, realistic problems

38:13 / ’30 cents of extra cheese’

39:25 / The husband’s brother and his $1400 shoes

40:05 / How social class may have influenced the claimants’ different attitudes towards money

40:35 / We didn’t quite know what to make of this couple’s future prospects

41:58 / Episode 7 – Crazytown

42:20 / Judge Toler’s odd intro

43:31 / This couple just wanted to be on TV – openly cracking up on the stand

44:47 / The animosity is very put on – lots of joking and laughing

45:02 / Candy house, ‘nuff said

46:28 / ‘He’s wrong and I’m right’

46:57 / If you watch one episode, watch this one

47:14 / The role of social media and smartphones

49:48 / Instagram handles of the claimants in Season 18

50:30 / The prevalence of traditional views on gender roles (men are breadwinners, women do housework)

52:06 / Judge Toler’s response to the airing of these views (article on Judge Toler’s background)

53:28 / The social class of the claimants – not a lot of middle-class professionals

54:21 / The economic incentives of the show attract a working-class demographic, but aren’t enough to attract a middle-class demographic

55:22 / Middle and upper class families have more to lose in a real divorce court

56:42 / Delving further into the economic incentives (article on the economics of Court TV)

57:30 / Court TV can often be a win-win situation in an open-and-shut small claims court case

1:00:08 / JS thought the structure of the show made this weaker than other reality court TV shows

1:00:48 / A final note on what ‘fame’ people might hope to gain from reality TV

1:01:31 / Taking a look at the demographics of the show’s claimants (quote from the article linked above)

1:02:48 / Comparing the percentage of African-Americans in the US population to the percentage of African-Americans on the show (stats from the 2010 Census via Wikipedia, natch – you can look up the articles on the individual cities) (Census Statistics on poverty)

1:04:45 / Why Americans Hate Welfare; overrepresentation of African-Americans in media in stories about poverty

1:06:30 / Race and ‘implicit bias

1:07:16 / Transitioning into an exploration of the show’s audience

1:08:25 / Chicken or egg situation?

1:09:13 / Hulu algorithms and audience demographics; Mike mentions Black-ish and Empire, as well as the show’s Facebook page

1:11:24 / The starkness of the show’s racial demographics confounded our expectations

1:13:28 / Probably many causes, but seems difficult to get to 70% w/o some type of bias

1:14:07 / Social distancing – amplifying negative stereotypes to reassure a target demographic similar to show’s participants (My Big Redneck Wedding)

1:16:41 / The show’s optimistic core – idea of being able to fix any marriage with enough heart; Mike mentions The Secret (100% accurate!)

1:17:10 / The paradoxical (?) appeal of conservatism to the poorest Americans (Jill Leovy interview)

1:18:04 / Mike’s view on the appeal and limits of such a philosophy

1:20:00 / How social class impacts how much someone is ‘punished’ for their bad decision-making; Mike mentions the book Floating City

1:20:55 / Mike wished this show would acknowledge that fact

1:22:09 / Wrapping up with our differing reactions to the show’s mediocrity

1:23:33 / Introducing the next show

1:24:33 / The usual rigmarole aka Rate us! (And subscribe!)