Johnny, Merv, Mike, Dinah, and Dick: Missing the Dignified TV Talk Show Hosts of Days-Gone-By

Herbie J Pilato
From Left: Mike Douglas, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, Tom SnyderPhoto

Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas, Dinah Shore, and Dick Cavett were the class acts of television talk shows. Throughout the 1960s, '70s, '80s, and early '90s, these charismatic TV chatters provided decades of entertainment and information with class, sophistication, and elegance.
From Left: Kelly Rippa, David Letterman, Ellen DeGeneres, Jon StewartPhoto

Also included in that A-List of top talk professionals are those like Jay Leno, David Letterman, Regis Philbin, Tom Snyder, and Kathie Lee Gifford. Of course, too, other terrific on-air TV personalities have appeared over the years at all hours of the day. Those like David Hartman, Joan Lunden, Brian Gumball, and more from many of the major network morning news/entertainment programs, had for years captured the viewers' various attentions. (Unlike the quite embarrassing behind-the-scene antics of certain recent morning show former hosts.)

Those like Oprah Winfrey, Phil Donahue, and Jon Stewart also became intelligent and iconic beacons of light in the TV talk show world. Fortunately, too, there were those like Rosie O'Donnell, Ellen Degeneres, and Steve Harvey who also contributed to the high road of the TV talk arena.

But into this upper-crest mix were the lesser contributors; those who opted to take the low road when it came to finding and communicating with their viewers; those who converted the chat show format into a shocking (read: "shock-value"), mostly garbled mess of media interplay.

Geralda Rivera began allowing his "everyman"/"everywoman" guests to throw chairs and break noses (like his!), while those like Ricki Lake, Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Jenny Jones, and Sally Jesse Raphael finally suit in the new, "wild" world of talk show entertainment. Sadly, this edgy band of TV talk show leaders began to encourage their guests to share (and sometimes bare!) way too much information.
Chat king Johnny Carson appeared on an early version of Phil Donahue's talk showPhoto

Fortunately, the most recent batch of TV talk shows has followed in the charming shoes of those like Mike Douglas, Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, Dinah Shore, and Dick Cavett.

In the television chat world of today, viewers can look to the bright spots and talented and sparkling personalities such as Drew Barrymore, Kelly Clarkson, and Jennifer Hudson.

Each of these fine entries in the TV talk sector has chosen to take the high road of uplifting entertainment.

In the process, they deliver to the TV audience an old-fashioned way of doing TV talk, still with a modern twist, but without twisting anyone's story or arm or breaking anyone's nose.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including RETRO ACTIVE TELEVISION, THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA

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