Serving The People With Financial Advice Television

Why pay for financial advice when people are doling it out for free on TV? Slate.com's Troy Patterson talks about whether these television shows are actually serving the needs of people seeking advice.

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ALEX COHEN, host:

In these dire economic times, many of us are trying to figure out what to do with our money. Sure, you could pay someone for advice or troll through thousands of Web sites in hopes you'll find the answer to your specific question, or you could turn on the TV.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Clark Howard Show")

Mr. CLARK HOWARD (Host, "The Clark Howard Show"): This is show is all about you taking charge.

(Soundbite of TV show "On the Money")

Ms. CARMEN WONG ULRICH (Host, "On the Money"): This is where you put your money in, and it grows.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Suze Orman Show")

Ms. SUZE ORMAN (Host, "The Suze Orman Show"): You're getting taxed up the wazoo, so...

(Soundbite of TV show "Mad Money")

Mr. JIM CRAMER (Host, "Mad Money"): He has no idea how bad it is out there. He has no idea!

(Soundbite of TV show "Saturday Night Live")

Ms. KRISTEN WIGG: Hold your hotdog because here comes a scoop of chili-cheese advice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: OK, that last one was a joke. That's Kristen Wigg on "Saturday Night Live," spoofing Suze Orman. All kidding aside, though, TV is filled with personal-finance shows now more than ever. Slate's Troy Patterson has been watching, and he joins us now with his review. Hi, Troy.

Mr. TROY PATTERSON (Television Critic, Slate.com): Hey, how are you?

COHEN: Good. Now, as you write, there are a lot of new shows out there. Tell us about some of those.

Mr. PATTERSON: There is, indeed, the vicious downturn in the economy has been accompanied by an upswing in personal-finance television. The shows that just came to air in January includes "The Clark Howard Show," which is on HLN, which is what we used to call CNN Headline News. A couple weeks after that debuted, the Fox Business Network brought us "Your Questions, Your Money," sort of a Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon, four-hour extravaganza, where anchors and panelists sit in the studio and ask questions about macroeconomics and home economics, and they range from the insightful to the inane, both the queries and the answers.

(Soundbite of TV show "Your Questions, Your Money")

Mr. DAGEN MCDOWELL (Host, "Your Questions, Your Money"): And it's OK to sit with a good friend or with your pastor and just have a good cry.

Mr. PATTERSON: For my money, the most interesting of them all is "The Dave Ramsey Show," which is on Fox Business, again.

COHEN: Why Dave Ramsey? What do you like about him?

Mr. PATTERSON: Oh, he's got this sort of no frills, down-home style. It's really captivating this way, and there's something a bit - not a bit, but frankly, evangelic - about what he's doing.

(Soundbite of TV show "The Dave Ramsey Show")

Mr. DAVE RAMSEY (Host, "The Dave Ramsey Show"): And I'm going to challenge you on a spiritual level to redefine what you call life.

Mr. PATTERSON: What is his catch phrase? That "the paid-off home mortgage has replaced the BMW as the status symbol of choice."

COHEN: And what about some of the old standards, guys like Jim Cramer, as you mentioned, his show, "Mad Money," do you sense any tone shift now that the economy has turned?

Mr. PATTERSON: Absolutely. You know, there's this way in which Jim Cramer's whole shtick - arm waving, ear splitting, stock tipping act - he is kind of like a human bubble in that respect. So, he's - these are tough times for him.

(Soundbite of TV show "Mad Money")

Mr. CRAMER: (Shouting) My people have been in this game for 25 years, and they are losing their jobs, and these firms are going to go out of business, and he's nuts! They're nuts! They know nothing!

Unidentified Woman: Cramer...

COHEN: Troy, you have watched, now, hours and hours of these shows. Do you feel like there's any really strong, solid important financial advice in the midst of all of them? Are these shows serving a purpose?

Mr. PATTERSON: For one thing, I think they function almost kind of like little therapy sessions. They give people the hope, the sense that they do have some control over their destiny and that the world isn't as scary as it sometimes seems.

COHEN: Troy Patterson is Slate's television critic. Thanks, Troy.

Mr. PATTERSON: Thanks for having me.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Stay with us on Day to Day from NPR News.

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