But there are deep similarities among the four. All are enormously popular -- and all let their subjects do the talking.
In Style, "Actors Studio," "Larry King" and "Book Notes" represent a more than subtle shift in the culture of journalism and, more significantly, the temperament of journalism's audience. After 30 years of investigation, inquiry, "point of view" and psychobabble, American readers and viewers are turning off the interpreters and going straight to the source. Put another way, they are rewarding media that refuse to mediate.
These four communications outlets couldn't be more different, of course. Befitting their subjects, "Book Notes" and "Actors Studio" are self-consciously intellectual. Against spare backgrounds, the interviewers -- CSPAN head Lamb and James Lipton, director of New York's fabled school for method acting -- ask questions aimed at eliciting thoughtful and often lengthy responses. In Style and "Larry King," by contrast, are breezy, almost anti-intellectual -- an open door to the most straight-forward of superficialities, whether a movie star's living room or a politician's public positions.
All share common traits, however. First, they are decidedly non-antagonistic. In Style, in the mold of Britain's Hello! magazine, specifically trades no-depth reporting for access to celebs' homes and closets. Mr. King has made a virtue of his lack of preparation in order to pursue the obvious questions his audience might be asking. Mr. Lamb and Mr. Lipton, on the other hand, prepare deeply, but only to draw the subject's own interpretation of a work or career, not to goad an emotional "gotcha" in the manner of a Barbara Walters or Diane Sawyer.
Which leads to the second point of inter