FROM Jerry Springer to Jeremy Kyle and Trisha to Ricki Lake, real-life chat shows have plagued our televisions since the early nineties.

Couples, parents, children and concerned' friends all share their private business in front of a studio audience and the millions of viewers sitting at home with a cup of tea.

Listening to a well-known radio programme discuss this very topic got me thinking about all the different shows, British and American, I have had the misfortune to see over the years.

They all have common themes, tackling issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, out-of-control teens and guess the biological parents. It's not that these subjects aren't worthy of being discussed - they're all very relevant social problems.

Unfortunately, it's always the same type of people twittering on about them.

There were a few that made me laugh - especially early Oprah and Ricki Lake, with the distraught middle-American housewives describing how their angelic sons and daughters had been lost to the dark side after dying their hair black and listening to Marilyn Manson.

Not forgetting, of course, the screaming, beefed-up drill sergeant sent to kick those out-of-control teens into shape at boot camp. Those crazy, shocking teens who smoked, drank and shouted at their parents.

Probably the most notorious such presenter is Jerry Springer, who has burly bouncers stepping in every five minutes to break up and hold back enraged men and women who have just found out that their partner has been having an affair with a close family friend or, sometimes, family, who then reveals that he is, in fact, a she - or vice versa.

You needed a degree in psychology just to keep up with the plot.

However, much as we moan about these programmes, we still keep watching. This type of car-crash TV clearly has a lot of closet viewers - the ratings must be there or they would be axed quicker than Britney Spears.

I admit to sneaking a quick peek at Jeremy Kyle if I happen to be off work. I can't help but be a teensy bit fascinated by the weird lives of others. Part of the attraction is trying to figure out how people end up in these situations, then shouting my own advice at the screen - which, I'll be honest, is never very polite or probably very useful.

One point does make me wonder: would you not at least make a bit of an effort to look a little less like Vicky Pollard and the like?

It's got to be embarrassing enough discussing your affairs in front of millions; you'd think they would have maybe passed on the tracksuit bottoms just this once. It doesn't do a lot to help the stereotypes of the guests, or endear them to the audience and the viewers at home.

What possesses people to write to these shows? They would have us believe it was desperation - nowhere left to turn to for help except a host with a sharp tongue and the offer of free backstage counselling.

Yeah right. We're not all that daft. It's got nothing to do with them wanting their 15 minutes of fame?

Say sorry, make empty promises and then off down the pub for a pint of Stella and a barney shouting about how they've just been on the television and their mates have taped it.

Is that too cynical of me? What about all these catch-up shows, which bring on old guests who have turned their lives around thanks to Trisha/Jeremy/Ricki/Oprah? Surely that proves these shows can do some good and that people can get the help they need through the power of television?

Personally, I'm not convinced. There is always something a little false about the guests. Regardless of whether they are real or not, they still keep coming and people still keep watching or applying to be members of the studio audience - which is voyeuristic, if you ask me - and have a front row seat for the break down of relationships and worse.

Unfortunately, the human race is naturally curious so unless we develop some kind of evolutionary resilience, this genre of programmes will have its fans and its supporters for a long time.

Neither will there be a shortage of hosts whose wealth of life experience clearly makes them experts on all kinds of social issues.

Well, I've got a whole 24 years of life experience so if it all goes wrong in this career I could easily take over from ol' Jeremy Kyle.