A growing trade in TV ‘whine shops’

Once upon a time, when people argued (whether the reason was important or not) they would threaten to call the police, speak to a prosecutor or – in extreme cases – even take the dispute to court. However, habits appear to have changed. Nowadays, instead of facing the prospect of heavy legal fees, the preference is to strike the fear of God into one’s adversary by threatening to «expose» him on the air – on one of an increasing number of shows hosted by «TV prosecutors.» The aim is not necessarily to be vindicated; it is generally enough to show up your rival (and beat them to exposing you in the same way). These televised «complaint shops» are aired at all times of day and on virtually all channels (state TV got tired of being the odd one out). Of course, each has its own speciality – some of them welcome complaints of a sociopolitical nature (so to speak) and deal with them in a standard fashion – by passing judgment without consulting either plaintiff or defendant; other shows specialize in «family conflicts» (covering such popular topics as «he cheated on me with my best friend,» «my husband beats me,» and «a Russian woman stole my man»). It is easy to understand why TV bosses promote such material (gossip has always had an irresistible pull). But it is far more difficult to understand what motivates those who spill their guts on these shows, opening up their private lives to an insatiably voyeuristic public.

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