161MC: Loose Women vs The Gadget Show

For this weeks blog task I have been asked to compare two contrasting studio based magazine shows and think about the creative decisions that have been made and why they made in that way. For this task I have chosen to compare Loose Women and The Gadget Show. I have chosen to compare these two shows in particular because I feel they will be vastly different in their content, style, and audience as the former focuses on people and emotional stories, such as celebrities, politicians and the presenters themselves, whereas the focus of the latter is on technology and should take a colder, more scientific perspective.

The Audience

I attempted to find specific audience statistics for these two shows but found none online, thus I will make my own, pre-emptive predictions of what audience these shows hope to attract based on my prior knowledge, and these predictions will inform my analysis.

Loose Women I expect is attempting to attract a female audience, as the title of the show suggests. Furthermore, the time-slot in which it is broadcast suggests the targeted audience. Loose Women is broadcast on weekdays at 12:30 pm; the standard working hours are 9-5, Monday-Friday, which means most working people will not be able to watch the show, neither will the under 18 demographic as young people will be attending school at this time. For the most part, the only women who will able to watch Loose Women are either stay-at-home mothers or retired. With this information I predict that the target demographic of Loose Women is women over 25, focusing on stay-at-home mums.

(After making the above prediction I actually found this page from ITV Media which describes the target demographic of Loose Women as “Female Housewives with children”. (ITV Media n.d.) Score.)

The Gadget Show, on the other hand, will have a less gendered audience demographic as the subject matter and the title itself are not targeting any stereotypically gendered interests (such as Loose Women focusing on celebrity gossip which is seen as a women’s thing VS Top Gear which focuses on fast cars which are seen as a man’s thing), but rather focuses on the genderless, niche subject of technology. Because of this, I expect this show to be targeting both men and women, though possibly men to a slightly greater degree due to the male domination of STEM fields.

The time slot in which it is broadcast suggests the intended audience for The Gadget Show as well. The show is aired at 7 pm on a Friday, coming in at the end of the work week, 2 hours after most the working force have clocked out, allowing time for them to get home, sit down and relax with a cup of tea just in time for The Gadget Show. Due to its time slot, I believe this show is, unlike Loose Women, focused on working people, which makes sense as emerging technologies have a much greater effect on the daily lives of working people than non-working people, as new technologies are always being implemented into business in new ways.

I also think target demographic may focus more on upper-class and middle-class people than working class people, as the middle and upper classes are more greatly affected by these technologies in the workplace than working class people whose jobs more often involve menial labour than complicated technology, as well as the fact that middle and upper classes just have more money to be spending on new gadgets, it doesn’t seem like the sort of show that would interest the majority of working class people. Thus I predict the target audience demographic of The Gadget Show is employed, upper and middle-class men and women, somewhat skewed towards men.

(I made these predictions before viewing any content from either show.)

The Presenters: Loose Women

Loose Women‘s presenters are actually quite different to most magazine programs it seems, rather than a set group of presenters every episode the show instead has a large group of panellists on rotation of which four are present in each episode. A full list of presenters can be seen here.

There are some interesting trends in this group which reinforce the appeal to the stay-at-home mum demographic. The youngest panellists seem to Katie Price at 38 and June Sarpong at 39, going all the way up to Janet Street-Porter at 70 and Gloria Hunniford at 77. The age is important, as well as the wide range of ages within this group. Having some younger panellists like Katie Price and June Sarong give stay-at-home mothers in their 20s and 30s someone they can relate to, and the presence of older women simultaneously allows older generations of women to also relate to the show as well as giving a strong sense of wisdom and experience from the panellists. This wisdom is why there are no twenty-something panellists, they would be seen as lacking in life experience and the target audience would not want to listen to someone younger than themselves telling them how to live their life.

Another important feature is the looks of these women, which seem to require walking a fine line; while none of these women could be called ugly there are also no panellists who are stunningly beautiful (by conventional patriarchal beauty standards) or say, sexy. Even Katie Price, once quite the sex symbol, has calmed down her image and appears more homely and sweet than sexy; her image is now more defined by motherhood to her autistic son Harvey than by scandal or sex appeal. Presenters with this appearance have likely been chosen because the stay-at-home mum will not be intimidated or feel envious of these women, these are not women you would catch your husband ogling and feel a pang of jealousy. They are approachable to the audience in their looks, thus inviting the audience’s trust.

On the other hand, while none of these women are portrayed to be intimidatingly beautiful, none of the older women have grey hair, even Gloria Hunniford at 77 has hair as bleach blonde as Katie Price. To me this reads as a deliberate move not to have any grey hair on screen on Loose Women, so that the female audience can watch without being reminded of the fear instilled in women by our patriarchal society of losing their beauty with age, of going grey and seeming unappealing to men, i.e. the audience’s husbands.

Another aesthetic feature of these presenters that should be noted is that of the 14 panellists only 2 are non-white, Saira Khan being of Pakistani descent and June Sarpong being black, and notably, the only dark-skinned woman to present the show, possibly included as a “token” to avoid accusations of racism. This suggests that the show is being aimed at a white demographic.

However, there is of course more to these women than just how they look. These women have a rich amount of professional and personal experience which appeal to the intended audience. Many of them are mothers and wives, allowing the stay-at-home mum to relate to them personally, and between them these women are well-respected in a variety of fields allowing them to be respected and trusted by audiences to speak on a variety of topics; Janet Street-Porter was an editor of The Independent Newspaper as well as being a top TV executive, Jane Moore has a career as a national newspaper journalist, Saira Khan was a contestant on The Apprentice and is a well-respected voice for business and women’s issues and Katie Price represents the celebrity gossip tabloid sector as a celebrity who was previously the subject of much gossip and scandal.

Overall the variety of the professional backgrounds and ages of these women is a strong point working in the show’s favour as it allows Loose Women to appeal to a wide audience demographic and gain higher ratings.

The Presenters: The Gadget Show

Unlike Loose WomenThe Gadget Show features a regular cast of the same presenters each week, although some alterations have been made to the line-up over the years. Currently, The Gadget Show has four regular presenters and having a small number of presenters rather than a large number of rotating panellists allows each presenter to show more of a distinctive and memorable personality on the show and for the audience to grow more attached to the presenters as a specific group.

The Gadget Show features a more racially diverse cast of presenters than Loose Women, with two white presenters, one black presenter and the mixed-race, white-Irish/Afro-Guyanese Craig Charles. This allows the show to appeal to a more racially diverse demographic than Loose Women.

Jon Bentley is the only current presenter who has been with the show since its beginning in 2004, and Georgie Barrat is a new presenter who just joined in 2017. These two are both journalists as well as presenters and, from my viewing, seem to take on more of the investigative and informative role on the show, providing the audience with all the information on the gadgets that they need.

Bentley seems to represent the upper-class white man with his fairly posh accent and style of speaking, whereas Barrat is the sole female presenter; these are traits which will appeal to audiences from these same backgrounds allowing them to relate to the presenters. Whereas the other presenters are all in their 40s or 50s, Barrat, the only woman, appears to be in her 20s or early 30s (no exact age is listed online); could this an attempt to appeal to a younger audience, or is there just a double standard here on the age of male and female presenters? Barrat is also notably conventionally attractive, white and blonde, traits which will attract a young, male audience, particularly when paired with Craig Charles making “slip and slide” innuendos.

Ortis Deley is an actor, television presenter of multiple shows and radio DJ who has been with The Gadget Show for a number of years, his role seems to revolve around bringing his big, extremely likeable personality and way of speaking to engage the audience. As a black man he also appeals to black audience members, as they will be able to relate to him better, this gives the show a wider audience demographic in terms of race.

Finally the legendary Craig Charles, a new, but an excellent addition to the show in 2017. Craig Charles is a cult symbol, the star of cult series Red Dwarf, loved as the English narrator of Takeshi’s Castle for his witty one-liners as well as the presenter of Robot Wars, Craig Charles is a great presenter to have on a show like The Gadget Show as not only does his reputation draw in the kind of niche, nerdy audience that would love a show all about gadgets, but he provides constant comic relief with his one-liners and innuendos.

Charles seems to directly represent the audience in much of the show as, whereas the other presenters already have all sorts of information about the tech of the day, he seems to usually not know anything about the technology being shown and is often addressed by the other presenters as they explain and show him the technology and he reacts with pure glee. In this way, he represents the audience as the ones who are uninformed and being taught, and he invites the audience to share his feeling of excitement. This is a very clever tactic, in my opinion, as explaining the tech to someone else, rather than directly to the audience, must appear much more natural and relaxed to the audience.

Charles also represents the working class people with his blue-collar background clear from his signature scouse accent. This goes against my prediction that the show would focus just on middle and upper-class people, and this is also shown in the style and content as I was expecting the show to deal with big technology news in a fairly serious manner, which it does do, but there is also humour and content related to gadgets that people of any class are interested in, such as reviews of game consoles and new phones. This is a good thing though as it allows the show to appeal to a wider audience.

Overall I would say that in terms of gender, class and race The Gadget Show has a wider audience demographic than Loose Women, though it may be more niche in the audience of its subject matter.

The Look: Loose Women VS The Gadget Show

Round 1: The Theme Tune

Loose Women’s theme tune features a high pitched, floaty voice singing “shalalala la la la! oooowoooowoooowoooowooooo!” with an upbeat tune as the title card is shown, the day’s topics are introduced and as the panellists enter, this immediately sets the tone as light-hearted and fun, getting the girls excited for an episode of gossip and debate. This is a good choice for a morning show as it keeps things light-hearted even though the content can get quite serious.

The Gadget Show on the other hand still goes for a fun atmosphere in its music, but with a bit more a cool, modern edge. The theme tune uses funky guitar riffs, paired with a mechanical sound effect which matches the opening graphic. This is a very good theme tune as it sets up the fun, comedic tone of the show as well as immediately and audibly introducing the subject matter, technology.

Round 2: The Graphics

The Gadget Show’s opening animated graphic is used as a transition motif throughout the show, as well as often being shown on set on TV screens, which works really well to reinforce the iconography in the audience’s mind. The imagery used is also excellent; the graph consists of the iconic power/on button symbol in the centre what seems to be a metallic, round door. The symbol turns on its side, now resembling a capital G for gadget, and moving parts of the door revealing the name The Gadget Show beneath. This is an excellent graphic as it communicates the subject matter to the audience excellently and ties into the theme tune’s sound effect as well as the set design, the sideways power symbol/G appearing as a huge decoration in multiple places on set.

Loose Women similarly uses graphics which visually inform the audience of the subject matter; the title card and various graphics throughout the show use a style where two rows of white text appears in two coloured rectangles which appear as if cut out from a women’s magazine, the top text in a fancy, serif font similar to the style used for the names on the covers of said magazines, and the bottom text in all-caps and in a bold, sans-serif text, appearing like a tabloid headline. This fits the show’s content which is ripped from the headlines of these magazines. Like The Gadget Show, the title graphic is used in the set design frequently to reinforce the iconography of the show.

Round 3: Set Design

Loose Women‘s set design uses bright and warm colours, lots of white and red and green as well as a lot of wood and bright lighting and large windows which create a warm, airy, safe, clean and welcoming environment, making the audience feel welcome and at home. The four panellists also stay seated throughout around the same table, which reinforces the feeling of a casual conversation between friends and invites the female audience to feel like they are partaking in the conversation as a friend.

The Gadget Show has quite the opposite style for it’s set design. It features a background of dark, black walls with the central set being composed a patchwork of stone pillars and metal grid wall panels, creating a cool, underground, edgy, metallic look fitting the subject matter of technology perfectly as it almost seems to resemble the Batcave, creating appeal for the niche, nerdy audience. This is reinforced by the shelves which cover the set, holding various different pieces of retro tech. It’s also worth looking at the seating here; rather than being sat around what could be a brunch table like in Loose Women, we have a desk and desk chair, a leather sofa and a large TV with a table in the middle. This set much more resembles a professional setting than a casual one, informing the audience of the tone of the show.

Conclusion

Clearly, these two shows couldn’t be more different in aesthetics and style, and yet they are similar in one thing: they both represent a cohesive visual package, the same motifs and visuals carried through in every aspect of the respective shows.

Content: Loose Women and The Gadget Show

Both Loose Women and The Gadget Show primarily focus on topical content, that is to say, stories which are recent and relevant, however, The Gadget Show does not stick solely to recent events for its content, unlike Loose Women, and they both have different ways of capturing their viewer’s interest in this content.

Loose Women catches it’s audience’s attention by framing each segment as a debate or a question, and these debates are introduced at the very start of the show in an attempt to hook the audience of housewives with a desire to gain an opinion that they can use in conversation with their friends by watching the show, which is a desire made so desperate due to the fact that these housewives often rarely have their voices or opinions heard or respected by their husbands, so by viewing and passively participating in this dialogue the show offers these women a form of validation for their opinion. This is why it is important that the panellists offer multiple perspectives and argue both sides, rather than stating one opinion is right or wrong, as you don’t want to alienate the audience for having a different opinion.

The Gadget Show focuses on a working audience and to hook the interest of this audience many of the segments revolve around practicality of making purchases of technology, reviewing different pieces of technology, comparing different tech to find the best in one category, for example, the best smartphone, or showing different deals to find the cheapest way to get a certain piece of tech. Another way this show appeals to its audience is through the emotional performance of its presenters; when the presenters react with wonder and joy to playing a new video game or trying a new piece of tech, the audience is filled with a desire to have that same experience and feel that same excitement as the presenters feel. I think ultimately The Gadget Show is trying to appeal to people who have strong aspirations, people who will see the shiny new thing and want the shiny thing, and after they have the shiny thing they’ll keep coming back to the show because they want more shiny things and the show tells them about all the new shiny things and how to them as soon as possible. (I confess I am one of the people who likes the shiny things.)

What I like about the shows

I like that in Loose Women there is a lot of panelists with a lot of different perspectives, and I like that they represent women who have a lot of professional experience as well as mostly being mothers, because if the audience is housewives I’d like to think that they can look up to these women who are both mothers and have had fantastic careers and grow bold and take the steps to escape the chains of modern domestic female slavery.

As for The Gadget Show, I like everything. I hadn’t seen the show before, but now I love it. I especially love how the editing is done, they don’t just cut between studio and VTS, they will overlay video with live audio from the studio, and the VTs are excellently filmed and edited, very quick, but smooth editing, very high production values, and I love the humour of the presenters and the way they get along.

What I would change about the shows

I’d like to see some more out-there panellists on Loose Women, the tone wouldn’t have to change, but I’d love to see some known feminists, some LGBT women, some more women of colour to give a more well-rounded debate of the issues on the show.

I don’t think I’d really change much about The Gadget Show from how it is now, it’s an extremely well put together show. Maybe some more equal representation for female presenters, particularly older women would be great.

An item for the shows

Well to think of an item for either of these shows isn’t too difficult to be honest, particularly as the items of Loose Women are pretty much all ripped from the tabloids, I mean that’s their thing, their whole aesthetic literally revolves around being ripped from the tabloids.

Item idea for Loose Women: “Cute or cougar? Is the ten year age difference between Cheryl Cole and boyfriend Liam Payne acceptable or inappropriate?”

Item idea for The Gadget Show: “Today we’ll be testing four laptops, new this year, from industry leading companies, to see which runs the fastest”.

Conclusion

I think my predictions of the two show’s target demographics were pretty spot-on with my findings from viewing the shows and I think I did a job of analysing and comparing the two shows, they are definitely vastly different.

Bibliography

ITV Media (n.d.) Loose Women [online] available from <https://www.itvmedia.co.uk/programmes/programme-planner/loose-women&gt;

Andrew Sheller is a Media Production student at Coventry University. You can see more content from Andrew at their Facebook page through this link.

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