Let's talk about it

TV celebrity talk shows and their hosts run the gamut from interesting and insightful to inane and downright insulting.

Jimmy Kimmel 311 (photo credit: courtesy)
Jimmy Kimmel 311
(photo credit: courtesy)
One of the reasons I don’t listen to the radio is that there is too much talking. No matter what station I tune in to when I want to listen to music, there is too much is chatter and patter that is just too annoying. By the same token, most TV talk shows feature some loud band blaring away. If I’m going to watch a talk show, then I want to see people interviewed, not hear some irritating rock band blasting off.
That being said, there are quite a few English-language talk shows on TV (and dozens of Israeli ones) if you’re in the mood to watch some celebrity interviews. As I have HOT and not YES, I don’t get Jay Leno or David Letterman or Regis and Kelly, but the shows I do get are diverse and, for the most part, diverting.
Next to Oprah, who is the quintessential queen of the talk show, my next favorite host is Jimmy Kimmel. He’s funny, intelligent, quick-witted and very down to earth. What I like best about him as an interviewer is that he listens to what his guest is saying and runs with the conversation rather than working from a set series of questions. He really engages the guest and, hence, really engages the audience (me for sure). His opening monologue is topical and very funny, and his little skits and films are original and inventive. Granted, he’s got a band at the end of each show, which is my cue to change the channel.
Next in that type of format is the Ellen DeGeneres show. Although I think she’s clever, generous and ingenuous, there are several elements on her show that get on my nerves. The games she plays are too silly for my taste, and every time she gets up to dance in the audience, I have to turn my head away because, frankly, the girl can’t dance. However, I like the interviews. She has topnotch guests, and her interviews – albeit much too short – are funny, as well as warm, open, honest and revealing. She doesn’t pull any punches, and I like that in an interviewer. When her guest singer or group comes on, I reach for the remote.
Next in that genre and format is Conan O’Brien. I actually can’t stand the guy. I think he’s tactless and immature, and his gestures and mannerisms are akin to those of a cartoon character. But he has good guests, and if I can get past his inane interruptions and childish comments, it is interesting to hear what they have to say. When his guest group takes the stage, I take a powder.
My least favorite talk show is Chelsea Lately, hosted by my least favorite host, comedienne Chelsea Handler (who says she is half Jewish). I really cannot fathom how that woman has her own show. It’s crude, tasteless, vulgar and outright offensive to the point that every other word in the show is bleeped. Every night she has another panel of three two-bit comedians who vie to get in their crass jokes and comments. Handler insults and belittles her three stooges every chance she gets, not to mention her Mexican midget sidekick, whom she constantly berates. Watching her show is like watching a train wreck, but I sit through the derogatory diatribes so I can see her 10-minute interview with an Alist guest, where at least Handler handles herself well enough to engage in a respectful and entertaining conversation. Another saving grace of the show is that there are no guest bands or singers.
At the other end of the spectrum, the best celebrity interview show, in my estimation, is Inside the Actors Studio. Host James Lipton is erudite and articulate and does extensive research on each of his illustrious guests. He delves into the guest’s early years and then chronicles each and every film or TV show that paved the way to create the star’s successful career. Each interview is extremely insightful and brings to the fore the passion, the purpose and the professional dedication of the entertainer. Lipton’s roster of guests has included such legendary actors and directors as Paul Newman, Tom Hanks, Robert De Niro, Charlize Theron, John Travolta, Barbra Streisand, Al Pacino, Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, Steven Spielberg and James Cameron. One of my favorite lines from the show is when Lipton asked Al Pacino what it was like working with director Mike Nichols on the TV mini-series Angels in America and Pacino replied, “It was great. He’s so smart, he makes you feel smart.”