The talk show format has been in existence for decades. It became popular because it was entertaining but even more so because it creates a sense of community. The ratio of information versus entertainment varies from production to production and this is perhaps the most prominent reason for the pervasiveness of the talk show format; it evolves with the viewing public. Like the television, the personal computer, or the internet; a talk show can adjust to any culture and any group of people. There is a misconception that this type of production simply requires an entertaining host, an audience, and cameras to capture the interaction…an idea that is easily proven false when viewed through the role of editor Shiman Hu and the popular Sino TV talk show “Talk with Lea.” Sino TV is based in the US but caters to the Chinese speaking community who lives here (as well as those outside the States). The subjects discussed are highly diverse and, due to their discussion of topics in America, additional steps must be taken to ensure clarity to the viewing public. This and numerous other responsibilities have made Shiman one of the most vital and valued members of the show’s production team. A glimpse into her professional world is telling of how talented and important this editor is in the modern talk show genre.
“Talk with Lea” appears on Sino TV each weekday. Lea is paired with different cohosts to present content appealing to almost everyone. On Monday, Lea and James Su discuss new movies and Hollywood entertainment. Tuesday sees Lea & Darling Wang conversing about the hottest topics around the world. Wednesday Lea cooperates with Weimin Jiang about the laws of California and the US. On Thursday Lea discuss topics like the Beijing Opera with Haibo Wang and on Friday Lea and Darling Wang contemplate the freshest news.
The style of the show is light and full of humor, very similar in tone to that of popular Korean variety shows. Hu matches and emphasizes the comedy of the discussion with special effects, exponentially increasing the experience for the television viewer. Shiman describes, “When there are funny scenes, I will do some special effects to match their performance. When editing this program, you must watch it from scratch, listen carefully and not miss any of the laughs. When there is a particularly funny part, I will use special effects to make the reaction better. For example, when one of the hosts said that they could not eat spicy food, I used special effects software to make flames as if the host's mouth was burning. These very minute details actually alter the experience substantially for the audience. It’s a polite ‘push’ to let them know they can relax and laugh.”
Perhaps the greatest demand of every talk show is the timely presentation of topics. In order to be relevant, the show’s content must be symbiotic with current events. While film and even scripted television productions allow for considerable planning and execution, talk show and news programming requires professionals who act based on instinct and skills honed on the job. Each day brings new tasks and challenges, there is no time to catch your breath. As editor, Shiman is the final line of completion and correction for “Talk with Lea.” Adding to what has been recently filmed and correcting any possible hiccups in the process, the responsibility is immense and not taken lightly by this editor. While the process can only go so fast, Hu admits that one skill she has been able to utilize to increase her efficiency is her own imagination. Cultivating a style and being creative with the implementation of the latest software has allowed her to work “ahead of the game” while actually on task.
A factor that is unique to show in regards to its relationship with the audience of “Talk with Lea” is the knowledge base of viewers from one country relating to another. Sino TV and “Talk with Lea” offers a sense of comfortability to those from China who wish to experience a little piece of home even while they are here in America. Because the show often discusses topics that seek to inform and assist its audience with information they need to apply to their time in the US, there is a need to communicate additional information that relates to the main ideas being discussed. It’s an important part of this program that fall into the editor’s list of responsibilities. Shiman describes, “This program is spoken in Chinese and to the Chinese people, many whom don’t really know everything about Hollywood. Because of this, I have to explain some things via the editing process. When the host discusses a Hollywood star, I may have to do research about this person and help the audience understand who is being talked about and what happened with this person. Sometimes the discussion is about California laws. Because we are living in California, we have to know these new laws. I will insert some information when I’m editing this program to help explain this better to our audience. You could think of it as Cliff Notes for viewing topical programs. If the audience needs some assistance putting things in context or comprehending the impact of this information on their personal life, I am the professional in charge of assisting them. It’s a lot of work but integrity requires this of me.”
The demands of Shiman as the editor of “Talk with Lea” requires her to be a Jack of all trades and, well…. a master of them as well. She is obviously connected to the community and this production offers her the chance to use her consummate skills to assist and inform those who are where she once was, in a new land and working towards a goal of fitting in. That’s not to say that Hu’s aims are completely altruistic; the talent she commands has placed her on both film sets and editing suites at television productions. Still, being able to use the knowledge, experience, and abilities she has to help others relax and enjoy themselves through entertainment…that’s always been her goal.