Monday, October 19, 2009


Pseudoscience on television

“It is regrettable,” says a fellow skeptic in a private conversation, “that more popular, network talk shows — especially those marketed towards women, which also bugs the crap out of me — tend to publicize pseudoscience.” In fact, it’s more than that they publicize it, but that they actively emphasize it. They focus on it. And the implication, inferred from the consistent pairing of the theme (pseudoscience) and the target audience (women), is that women tend to be credulous.

Women sit home and watch daytime television. All My Children. Montel, Jerry Springer, Judge Judy, The View. Oprah. With nothing better to do between swabbing Mop-n-Glo on the kitchen floor and swabbing dribble off the baby’s chin, women just stare at the TV, dewy-eyed and heart-warmed by stories of how they might be swept off their feet by a Libra who will use crystals to remove toxins from their bodies and set up the best feng shui for their living rooms.

OK, so maybe it’s just that I don’t know women who sit home watching daytime television, but the women I know are not credulous dew-eyes who get sucked in by Oprah and her ilk. On the other hand, it’s very clear that these TV shows are marketed primarily to women. So what’s going on here?

Is it just that daytime TV, in general, is marketed to women because women have traditionally been the ones who’ve been home to watch it? And these fluffy programs go on during the day because they certainly aren’t decent fodder for Prime Time (not enough explosions, which appear to sell car ads). Then, the appearance that we’re shoving superstition and pseudoscience at women is just a matter of collateral damage?

But, then, why do these shows exist in the first place? The TV networks must think that women are suckers for this garbage, or they wouldn’t have put it on to start with. Or maybe they think we’re all suckers for it, but it doesn’t sell enough car ads, so our prime-time exposure to it is limited to D-list outlets like Syfy and the ironically named Discovery Channel and History Channel (do click those links for shining examples).

Oh, and Larry King (tonight’s [schedule change] Friday night’s show will feature Suzanne Somers using her extensive medical training to talk about cancer treatment). How’d he wind up in prime time?

Update, 24 Oct: I updated the Larry King link to point to the transcript of the Suzanne Somers show.

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