This afternoon, a friend and I caught a taping of the "Steve Wilkos Show" at Chicago's NBC Studios. For those of you who aren't in the know, Steve Wilkos spent 14 years as Jerry Springer's body guard and has in recent years spun himself off into his own talk show. His guests are your typical daytime train wrecks: child molesters, abusers of all sorts, you get the picture (we got a prostitute/drugee confronting her mom for "stealing" her disabled baby). Despite the dire circumstances his guests find themselves in, I find the guests secondary to Steve himself. Mr. Wilkos has a dynamic presence: he is a forceful, scenery-smashing (literally), yet ultimately charismatic host. Although after carefully watching him, one starts to notice his flaws: he is short on eloquence, and he has a tendency to revert to certain catch phrases ("get off my stage!"). Arguably though, these just add to his charm. I find that being present for the taping is a more stimulating experience versus watching the finished product on television. One thing I noticed is how much more scripted it feels in person, which is not a bad thing at all. On the contrary, it's fascinating to be part of the process, and I think it adds to the whole theatricality of the proceedings, especially when the audience is as engaged and participatory as this one. I'm not the first one to notice that trashy talk shows make great theater (hey, they made an opera out of the Jerry Springer Show), but it certainly does.
Rating: *** (out of *****)