Cover image for The money shot : trash, class, and the making of TV talk shows
The money shot : trash, class, and the making of TV talk shows
Grindstaff, Laura.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xii, 318 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Central Library PN1992.8.T3 G75 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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He leaped from his chair, ripped off his microphone, and lunged at his ex-wife. Security guards rushed to intercept him. The audience screamed, then cheered. Were producers concerned? Not at all. They were getting what they wanted: the money shot.

From "classy" shows like Oprah to "trashy" shows like Jerry Springer, the key to a talk show's success is what Laura Grindstaff calls the money shot--moments when guests lose control and express joy, sorrow, rage, or remorse on camera. In this new work, Grindstaff takes us behind the scenes of daytime television talk shows, a genre focused on "real" stories told by "ordinary" people. Drawing on extensive interviews with producers and guests, her own attendance of dozens of live tapings around the country, and more than a year's experience working on two nationally televised shows, Grindstaff shows us how producers elicit dramatic performances from guests, why guests agree to participate, and the supporting roles played by studio audiences and experts.

Grindstaff traces the career of the money shot, examining how producers make stars and experts out of ordinary people, in the process reproducing old forms of cultural hierarchy and class inequality even while seeming to challenge them. She argues that the daytime talk show does give voice to people normally excluded from the media spotlight, but it lets them speak only in certain ways and under certain rules and conditions. Working to understand the genre from the inside rather than pass judgment on it from the outside, Grindstaff asks not just what talk shows can tell us about mass media, but also what they reveal about American culture more generally.

Author Notes

Laura Grindstaff is an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Davis.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

An assistant sociology professor at the University of California at Davis, Grindstaff draws on the language of pornography in analyzing the sometimes steamy and mostly conflict-driven realm of TV talk shows. In porn films, "the money shot" is the moment of male orgasm, and Grindstaff successfully argues that shows like Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake can only be pulled off if they have an emotionally raw "money shot" moment in which guests weep, throw chairs or fling themselves at another guest. "Like pornography," she writes, "daytime talk is a narrative of explicit revelation in which people `get down and dirty' and `bare it all' for the pleasure, fascination, or repulsion of viewers." Although similar insights have been expressed by other cultural critics, who've gone into some detail about the effects of these programs on media and society, Grindstaff veers in a refreshingly different academic direction. Approaching the subject from the inside, by interviewing producers, assistants and guests, as well as describing her own yearlong internship at two unnamed talk shows, the author provides a behind-the-camera perspective that differentiates her material from other sociology books on the topic. Her preference for academic language occasionally makes for dry reading, but it also keeps the book from being a titillating expos akin to the very shows she's describing. On the whole, she lets her natural curiosity come through as she delves into the motivation of the guests, the frustration of the producers and the sheer inanity of cobbling together a show in which bouncers are forced to separate a wife from her husband's mistress. (July 15) Forecast: The lurid, attention-grabbing title should at least get readers to pause in front of this book. It will be a good addition to media studies collections and should do well within educated trade audiences, in addition to the academic market. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

From the front lines of daytime TV talk shows, Grindstaff (sociology, Univ. of California, Davis) shares a captivating field study that reveals the history, motives, and methods of producing the daytime talk show. The "money shot," a phrase borrowed from film pornography, is the moment when a talk-show guest displays raw human emotion joy, rage, sorrow, or remorse. Said to be the source of soaring TV talk-show ratings and regularly criticized for downgrading the quality of daytime TV the "money shot" also demonstrates a current focus of American culture. Grindstaff argues that although talk shows may give a voice to ordinary people who would otherwise be denied access to the media, that voice is heavily restricted by numerous conditions and rules of participation. While detailing how class inequality has become the fuel for the ongoing production of daytime talk shows, Grindstaff also gives an intriguing report about a topic in which most of us have at least some interest. This well-thought-out and expertly researched study is suitable for all public and academic libraries. Molly Misetich, Coeur d'Alene, ID (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Rather than condemning talk television from a social problem perspective, Grindstaff (Univ. of California, Davis) offers a far more interesting and compelling ethnographic account of this much maligned television genre. Her data was gathered over two years working as an intern and researcher on two nationally televised talk shows. In addition, she participated in informal focus-group sessions and conducted some 80 interviews with producers, staff, talk-show hosts, and talk-show guests, providing an insider's perspective on how the practices of the production process shape the talk show as a text that contributes to the reproduction of class inequality in the US. "Ordinary" people normally excluded from the media are given opportunity to voice their concerns and be politically engaged with the world, albeit on a popular, rather than elite, level. However, they are constrained and manipulated by producers in such a manner that they are reduced to deviant stereotypes suitable for mass consumption and, consequently, reinforce class hierarchy. Producers manage a great deal of "emotional labour" in their quest for the "money shot"--those tabloid brands of soft- and hard-core emotional display that guarantee a show's success. This is an excellent addition to collections at all levels in qualitative research, popular culture, and mass media. G. B. Osborne Augustana University College

Table of Contents

A Word about Names
The Principal Cast Prologue
Setting the Stage
1 Airing Dirty Laundry
2 The Genre Goes Hard-Core: A Brief History of Talk Shows and the Money Shot
3 Talk as Work: Routinizing the Production Process
4 Talk as Show (a Show of Emotion)
5 The Other Side of the Camera: Motives and Misgivings
6 Inside the Fun House
7 Will the Real Expert Please Stand Up?
8 Class, Trash, and Cultural Hierarchy Epilogue
Airing Another Kind of Dirty Laundry: Confessions of a Feminist Fieldworker

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