Trisha Goddard is no Oprah Winfrey, although the promos on Sony Entertainment Television would have us believe her talk show, Trisha, is in the same league. If anything it is, at best, a less sleazy version of Jerry Springer meets Ricki Lake, writes Debashine Thangevelo

OPRAH Winfrey hung up her host’s hat, but not before setting the benchmark as the “queen of talk shows”. And while many have tried to fill her shoes, no one has been able to match her charm, sense of humour, empathy and savoir-faire.

Perhaps it would be best if talk show hosts joining the fray worked to cultivate a fan base based on a distinctiveness they could proudly claim as their own.

I know I may be criticised for making comparisons here – but if a show is pitched along these lines, this is unavoidable.

No disrespect to Trisha Goddard, who has countless years of experience in TV as a reporter and presenter, but her show is reduced to being über ghetto thanks to trashy topics like I Have a Secret; I Slept with My Sister’s Fiancé; End the Lies Today, Decades of DNA Denial End Today, Which of These Men is the Father? and Did You Cheat With My Best Friend and Betray Our Family?

Having made public her numerous personal setbacks – from an abusive childhood, two failed marriages, an Aids scare, betrayal, losing her younger sister, a nervous breakdown and dealing with a very sick baby – Goddard has come to be regarded by her guests as more approachable.

Admittedly, the inclusion of polygraph and DNA tests adds a modicum of realness to the tabloid offering.

Goddard says she isn’t trying to work off another blueprint here.

“I know it sounds strange, but… I come at it from a mental health and conflict resolution point of view. I haven’t really modelled my show on anyone (else’s). If anything, I’m really careful not to.

“Again, I think the whole thing about talk shows is the individuality of different talk show hosts. I probably look more towards journalists, the way they are and the way they approach difficult subjects, more than talk show hosts.

“I am inspired by those early war journalists who put themselves in the story – and that is where storytelling has more of an impact on people.”

Expanding on mental well-being issues permeating the show, Goddard says.

“It runs as a thread through everything and you might not see it (or notice it). It’s like the butter in a sandwich (butter is in every sandwich), but all you think you are eating is the meat or the salmon or whatever. So I would say that the mental health issues in my show are like the butter in a sandwich. You will ingest it and you will hopefully ingest it without me having to jam it down your throat.”

To an extent, a talk show host is akin to a therapist. The difference being the session is shared with millions of people – and talking may not exactly make the situation better. Does Goddard make a difference?

“There is a fine line. When I do my notes about each person, (when I come across someone who has gone through similar experiences to mine) I recognise it and deal with it before I come on to the show. I’ve got a history of engaging with people who have been on my show (and bringing them back). We also have a great show after-care system; we have a fantastic psychologist and counsellor.”

Nestled comfortably in the tabloid realm of talk shows, Trisha – like The Jerry Springer Show – has become a TV talking point. Where audience ratings are concerned, that’s all that counts, I guess.

• Trisha, Sony Entertainment Television (DStv Channel 127), weekdays at 5.20pm.