So growing up in the 80s with divorced parents--I spent a lot of time with the TV... It's where I came to love soap operas (RIP Santa Barbara), informericals and "Inside Addition" AKA Bill O'Reilly's trash TV show before his even worst TV show airing now.
But the other thing I watched a lot of was talk shows--Ricki Lake, early Oprah Winfrey, Sarah Jessie Raphael--shows about extreme subjects and celebrity self-promotion. It is where I first saw Joan Collins and feel in love, where I saw families crazier than my own and how my weight struggle wasn't just something I was fighting. And while it wasn't always the best way to learn things--it was an unsentimental education of sorts.
And then there was Donahue--Phil Donahue is the father of the daytime talker in it's purest form. He would debate the issues of the day--whether it was child abuse in the Catholic church, opposing the first Gulf War or the basic issues that came between liberals and conservatives. He had many famous guests on his show--Ralph Nader was a constant guest, Ayn Rand shared her life philosophy as well as various actors, novelists and singers from all over the spectrum. The show was considered the first national platform for hip hop for the majority of mainstream America.
It's hard to pin down one place where Donahue took us to that wasn't something to discuss--whether it was Marilyn Mason in the 90s talking about goth rock, meeting Ryan White and learning about his struggle as a child who contracted AIDS in a era of ignorance, from political figures such as Louis Farrakhan to Bill Clinton, to racism and Holocaust deniers. His show was heartfelt in it's need to understand the world, to share and education through bringing people together. I honestly believe I learned more about the world, different points of view and the importance of interpersonal communication through his show than anywhere else. It's a shame that is show went off the air before his time and he is someone who is missed in this world of tabloid journalism.