Most emotionally manipulative TV shows

I was also thinking of glurge programmes like Highway to Heaven. Shows where the plot revolves around making people feel a certain way. And sometimes you can feel emotionally affected by the show even while noticing what’s happening, because it mimics the norms of emotional response in such a simple way.

There’s a reason these shows are less popular now that we have more channels to choose from.

Is that really emotionally manipulative - in a negative way, that is? Presumably all dramas aim to affect your emotions.

I mean, in real life, that’s what it’s like, excepting mass terror events and the like. When terrible things are happening to you, like rape or being robbed or beaten up, there will probably be someone not that far away having a really good day. An ensemble show has the ability to show that by showing the lives of characters we (the viewers) all know.

It’s just a pretty effective way of writing drama, not outright emotional manipulation.

(FTR I haven’t seen Weeds and lost interest in OITB after season fourish.)

Most emotionally manipulative TV shows

How could the answer not be the news?

This is what is amazing to me. What’s amazing is that if they are on, then it means there is an audience for it, and therefore lots and lots of people who eat this stuff up.

You watched a completely different show from the one I watched, I can’t remember any moms getting cancer, no maths teachers dying in car crash, no school nurse, and absolutely and completely the coach didn’t beat his wife or anyone and was one of the most inspirational characters I’ve seen in any drama ever… Indeed that is the defining point of the series.

Are you sure you are talking about Friday Night Lights?

I stopped watching “American Idol’s Got Talent with his Voice” because of all the filler crap. I just couldn’t stomach it.

Not just the sob stories, but the over-the-top backstage reaction shots as well. And the ridiculous audience reactions too.

Can someone produce a program that simply presents the talent? Isn’t that what the shows are supposed to be about?


Historically, the game show “Queen For a Day”. Contestants would compete for the saddest life story. (George Carlin even satirized it as “Queenie For a Day”.)

You might also want to consider Lassie for the famous “Timmy has fallen down the well again.”

Thank you- I thought I slipped into a parallel universe. I don’t really remember any of those story lines, but it had been awhile. Loved that show and it read authentic to me.

I would say a top contender is America’s Got Talent.

Undercover Boss. I originally watched it because I thought it would be fun to see how the bosses cope with the everyday problems of the job. But it’s just designed so that they can tell some sob story about one of the participants and have the boss magnanimously give them a big reward at the end. That gets old very fast.

I disagree about the 9-1-1 shows. They are like giant comic books, where the action is larger than life, but so outlandish that it doesn’t trigger my emotions. They’re just silly fun.

Hospital shows, particularly New Amsterdam and Chicago Med. But I LOOOOVE New Amsterdam, so I’ll put up with some crying if I must. :wink:

But Chicago Med has gotten totally unbelievable in its writing. I watch it just to yell at the characters. :smiley:

My other gripe with these talent shows is that the judges always say, “Well, when this plain ordinary-looking contestant (i.e., Paul Potts, Susan Boyle) came up on stage, we didn’t expect anything, but then…they flabbergasted us”

Like, how long have you been in this industry? Shouldn’t you know by now that plenty of diamonds in the rough exist?

Agreed. I loved Friday Night Lights, despite having no interest in football and don’t remember any of that (“math teacher dies in car crash, soccer mom gets cancer, this student is getting molested by a family member, the school nurse is an alcoholic, this coach beats his wife”). In fact the relationship between Coach and Mrs Coach was one of the best things about the show. Some of the kids had issues (like the quarterback who got paralyzed in a game in the very first episode) but not in a melodramatic way. It was an excellent show.

And yes, I like hospital dramas (ER, The Good Doctor, New Amsterdam, The Knick) despite the sometimes stupid storylines.

The game show “The Wall” is emotional manipulation from episode start to finish.

I don’t watch much TV. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any of the shows described in this thread.

Yesterday morning I read this thread. In the afternoon, I went out and got my first shot. I had to stay for 15 minutes, so I went and sat down in their observation room. A television was on, showing some cooking show which involved contestants. I didn’t watch it; I pulled out my phone and started playing a game. After a few minutes, I guess they were introducing a new contestant. All of the sudden this sad music started playing, and some woman told her story about having breast cancer.

Which immediately made me think of this thread. “My gawd, they’re right!”

My wife cried at the finale of “Superstore” - and that’s a show she hardly ever even watched!

I think you’re putting the chicken before the egg there. I’m pretty sure that FBI:Most Wanted is aimed squarely at old farts, so in order to make it attractively dramatic and suspenseful, they are aiming right for what terrifies the majority of old farts.

Beyond that, we know that a cop show about drinking coffee, doing paperwork, breaking up/defusing almost-fights at bars, and generally NOT tackling, arresting or shooting people would go over about as well as a lawyer show where they constantly settled out of court without trials, and even occasionally got summary judgements. Both are extremely realistic, but extremely unexciting.

You are aware the first season of 24 was primarily filmed BEFORE September 11th, right? It was the right show at the right time though, premiering in early November 2001. Originally its hook was going to be the real-time nature of the show (i.e. one hour of broadcast show-time = 1 hour of in-show time), but as best as I can remember, the whole anti-terrorist aspect mostly eclipsed that pretty quickly.

I think a lot of the thread candidates like “911-Lone Star” are the product of lazy writing; it’s easy to portray drama and conflict through the lens of having something super-dramatically insane happen in Austin, like earthquakes or dust storms. It’s a LOT harder trying to write a compelling show about the mental and emotional challenges of first responders doing their normal jobs despite the toll that takes on them.

After watching a couple on-line I knew when the guitar strummed a chord it was time for the big reward.

It can be done, because Barney Miller did it.

I really miss shows like that. Thank heavens they have channels like MeTV or TVland or Decades that specialize in showing old shows.

That sounds like the original Japanese show. For one thing there was no top 20 or whatever advance to the next round even if they didn’t finish. If no one finished a round the season was over. I also don’t remember anything particularly glurgey. The off stage B-roll was mostly about setting up obstacle courses at home.

Yes and I have some personal connection to this, as I know someone who got to the final of one of the biggest talent shows (I can’t give more detail without “outing” myself in this forum).
The backstory they gave for him was very misleading; not a lie per se, but missing some critical context.

For other contestants the stretch was much worse, like implying contestants were battling with life-threatening illnesses when they had only had a minor surgery for something totally benign years ago.
And many of the contestants were already performing in the industry; just not famous enough that you’d know their names yet.

But do you have a show then?
I mean, in the UK, there were many talent shows prior to the “Simon Cowell” style, but even those involved chatting with the contestants, and judges overreacting – they just didn’t commit fully to the drama.
The new stuff, and what has made the popularity of these shows explode, is adding a negative judge, making fun of the bad singers in the early rounds (something which is also engineered btw), and the sob stories.

OTOH a completely dry talent show, taking out all the human factors of even the old-school talent shows might not be entertainment at all*
You’d have a bunch of already professional (just not famous) singers trying out, with voices so good the average person would be unable to tell them apart, and then you’d hate yourself for wanting to pick the best looking one – because the show didn’t give you any excuse to choose the best-looking one.

* Personally I hate these shows, the only one I’ve watched through in years is when the person I knew was competing.