Sunday, August 11, 2019


Well, it’s finally happened. The end of the worst show in television history. That’s not my declaration, TV Guide made that declaration years ago, a label that appropriately, and to no one’s surprise, “The Jerry Springer Show” chose to promote and accept like a badge of honor. To be honest, I’m amazed it’s taken this long. The series is coming to an end, and in keeping with the current trends of the Daytime lineup, it’s being converted into “Judge Jerry”. Yes, it’s turning into another judge courtroom series.


I’m depressed about that. I’ve written about the current trend of judge series, link below:

 and it’s not stopped; in fact for reasons that I’m not entirely sure of, CourtTV of all dead channels, was rebooted recently. If I wanted, I could now watch Kellen Winslow Jr.’s rape trials, or whatever histrionics is on there now, but I don’t. (Sigh) I lived through this crap the first time back when the O.J. trials happened and I’m not interested in revisiting those aspects of the 1990s, despite, for whatever reasons, Hollywood seeming to be insisting that I do so.

Speaking of the 1990s though, this was around the time “The Jerry Springer Show” became what it was. I remember that happening; I had friends and relatives who obsessively watched the daytime talk show lineups regularly, and Jerry Springer was one of their-, well, I won’t say favorites, but if Maury or Montel or Sally Jesse didn’t have an interesting guest, they’d switch to Springer. It’s important to remember though that at the beginning “The Jerry Springer Show” was much more traditional of a talk show at the time. Jerry Springer, was actually quite famous for being a disgraced local politician in the Cincinnati area, who rebuilt himself as an Emmy-winning news broadcaster. Seriously, he’s got like a dozen Emmys, and you can believe that if you watch early episodes of his series. They weren’t the overly exploitative and all out lewd mixture of trailer trash fights and over-the-top sexual debauchery and excess that we think of back then. That doesn’t mean that there weren’t strange things on the show though. Daytime talk shows, are constantly looking anywhere and everywhere for stories or news items, or whatever, to talk about on television, especially back then when there were dozens of talk shows on the air, and if it wasn’t something that wouldn’t say make Oprah or Donahue or whoever randomly was number three among the more respectable hosts first, then, you often scrapped the bottom of the barrel. In hindsight, it’s really fascinating to look back and sort through some of these shows from this era; television at it’s original core is often a search to fill airtime, and daily talk show genre is a pretty unique way of having to see what they would’ve come up with to do that. It’s especially weird when we see a lot of old footage from those shows about incidents that later-on , like the West Memphis Three Murders being talked about on “Donahue”, included interviewing the stepparent of one of the kids that now everybody suspects was/is the real killer, but also seeing how there was supposedly this devil worshipping trend among the teenage population scaring everybody and how such ridiculous witchhunt claims were taken seriously. It's truly surreal.

Springer doesn’t have a lot of that compared to other shows, even in their earliest days, but I do remember them getting attention for say, profiling Jasmine St. Clair’s then-record breaking streak of men she slept with in a ten-hour period, or profiling people with baby fetishes, as in they were adults who preferred to role-play as babies. And Springer was by no means the first talk show to have their guests fighting each other all the time. They were probably the first to outright encouraged or staged it, but Geraldo and Morton Downey Jr. have him noticeably beat by a wide margin, and those fights were much more infamous, partly ‘cause of who they involved.

Actually, Morton Downey, Jr. is an interesting comparison to make with Springer. He’s mostly been written out of television history or forgotten entirely these days but you could argue that a lot of what became “The Jerry Springer Show” was a direct influence from that series. Except Morton’s shtick was actually much more in tune with say, Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly, some of the alt-right conservative assholes who mostly just verbally abused and insulted people, in Morton's case they were at least their guests in order to get their rowdy crowd of fans and audience members to praise him, the more outrageous the better. I’ll say this about Springer, he rarely got like that on his show; usually the only times I distinctly remember him doing that involved episodes he did on the Ku Klux Klan or other hate groups, especially Anti-Semitic groups. Springer is the son of two Holocaust survivors, so that was bullshit that, while he gave them a forum to express their thoughts, he didn’t exactly dare to accept it.

That’s a rare exception though. That’s the thing that really makes the series stand out still, it’s basically a forum for where anything and everybody can come on and, in theory anyway, be themselves, let off some of the steam, say what they “really” felt, etc. etc. etc. I couldn’t give you a percentage of how many of the guests over the years were real guests or how many were just trying to get on TV, or how many of their fights or disagreement were staged. (I personally have seen more than one actors’ headshots and resumes that listed “The Jerry Springer Show” as a credit.) Eventually they embraced it all, this was the late nineties, and Springer was essentially up there with Howard Stern at the time for all the obnoxious and ridiculousness that he’d let his programs exude. It was drama, love, relationships, lies and cheaters exposed, despite everything, the show profiled the kind of melodramatic soap opera material that occurs in anybody’s life from time to time; it’s no wonder that somebody made a successful opera out of the damn series.

I remember the transition period; some people were really inspired by it and it was one of the biggest shows on TV for a while there. Mostly in negative ways they were inspired admittedly. If there is something worst than “The Jerry Springer Show”, it would be a lot of the series and shows that were inspired by the show and tried to either replicate it exactly, or find some twist to the format to get their own audience. I could go on a rant about pro wrestling around that time period here, but, if somebody reading this is actually interested in that, they’ve probably heard Jim Cornette ranting about it already and frankly that’s probably better to listen to him.

That said, I think I did mention “Eye for an Eye” at one point though.

This might actually be the worst TV show of all-time, and I hope and highly suspect that this judge show they’re transitioning to will be absolutely nothing like that, 'cause Springer's not this big of a hack. 

I guess the most notable show that kinda took the influence of Springer and tried to adapt and shape it to make it their own was “The Jenny Jones Show”. That was another traditional talk show; actually in it’s original form that show had a more traditional comedic back to it; (Jenny Jones had a weirdly ecclectic career, but she was most known as a stand-up comic.) but it evolved from there into a more traditional exploitative talk show, but in the last few seasons they really went in hard on the outrageous. I actually liked the show when it went for more of that Too Hot for TV era thing, especially when it pressed hard on the wild and out-of-control teen girl episodes, pretty much at the same rate that Maury Povich now basically just does episodes on DNA parenting tests, especially the sexualized teen ones, these episodes usually ended with them going to boot camp or something. (That episode of "South Park" where Cartman is trying to be a trash teen girl to be on a talk show, that's a reference to "The Jenny Jones Show" at the time.) However, it eventually lead to that series’ downfall and I guess it came off as desperate. (Well, that and Jenny Jones had that high-profile incident that really kinda cursed her for the rest of her run. [I guess I should ex-, {sigh} for those who don’t know, after a taping of a “Secret Crush Revealed” episode, one of her guests killed the other guest the day after. I want to say, I’d have to look it up to be certain, that it was a gaybashing murder. I'd rather you not try to find the episode, it mostly only aired on, {Sigh} CourtTV's coverage of the murderer's trial.])

Actually, Maury Povich’s show changed as well because of Springer. Now, they didn’t embraced the fighting or even the public nudity or anything, but they did start looking for more over-the-top people and stories and characters and in the most melodramatic of situations. They probably caught it the best though when they stumbled into the child DNA tests routine doing this, and that made them the first one that really took a chunk out of Springer’s audience by doing that. Springer did those too once upon a time btw, most every talk shows has done everything at some point, 'cause that's television talk shows; you're looking for things to put on the air. 

I talk about Jerry Springer’s influence mostly in the past because it frankly has just been unwatchable for the last decade or decade and a half or so. At some point Morton Downey, Jr.’s show just became a shell of it’s former self, although that’s probably for the best in that series case, but even still, Springer’s downfall, is actually sad. I know, it doesn’t seem like I should be mourning it, but I am and whether you thought it was misunderstood brilliance or just the worst of poor taste or you enjoyed it because of how poor a taste it was in, I was always glad it was still on the air, even now, even with it really just becoming the sideshow that it’s biggest detractors always said it was. And it has been; it’s now basically just, “Let’s see this crazy thing,” and then, “Another crazy thing,” and another! “We Love Lesbians!” “Jerry!” “Jerry!” “Jerry!”,...- I mean, it really does just feed into those most primitive “Beavis and Butt-head” meets bad Andrew Dice Clay simple instincts of our mind that really don’t get much more intellectually astute than demanding a girl show their tits. (And frankly, if you ever do watch some of those uncut most outrageous episodes of Springer, eh, you know, I hate to be insulting, but more often than not, that was probably a bad idea.) It ultimately got boring seeing the same-old trick and we moved onto other things, newer things. That’s said, even at its most admittedly unwatchable, even for so-bad-it’s-good value, I always thought that it was good that there was a place for this on television, an audience and forum like this. We need to be reminded and shown that, humanity comes in all forms and our emotions and feelings transcend so much of us. 

Honestly, I find it more realistic and genuine to see people acting the way they do on “The Jerry Springer Show” than I would, say, the same people with the same problems on “Dr. Phil”, where the guests are dressed real nice and he’s trying to help deal or solve their issues with marriage fidelity or to help someone stop selling their body for crack or whatever-the-fuck that their relatives are so concerned about and all he does is try to tell them the ways they should be better or whatever…, that’s all well and good to be talked to and lectured at but sometimes you want to hurt somebody so much that you need to punch or kick or pull or shove them to the ground by their hair for sleeping with your boyfriend who you make apologize in the most humiliating way you can think and then still tell him “No! ‘cause I found someone who loves me,” and then immediately start making out with his stripper-mother right in front of him and the audience and whoever’s watching at home. I get that. I’m not gonna say don’t seek professional help if you’re in that or some simulation situation, although “Dr. Phil”, is probably a questionable idea of help there, although so is Jerry Springer for that matter, but at least I get the, ironically, real emotion that Springer’s guests have, or at least convey.

I’ve seen the best and the worst of the most exploitative of daytime television and you know what, I think I prefer Springer’s approach to it then most of the others. Because most of the time, he’s not getting in the way of his guests and, despite evidence to the contrary, he’s letting them be who they want to be, even if they’re more or less "acting" their most primal emotions for the crowd and the melodrama is really more melo than drama sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s time to end it. I don’t know if a Judge series is the best idea of what to do next, but I’m not surprised. Springer’s often chosen to do other projects outside the series in recent years. He’s acted in a few films, even on stage, he’s taken other hosting gigs, most notably a few years hosting “America’s Got Talent”, I actually think he’d be a pretty good game show host if the opportunity ever arose; he actually does do a hosting job on a live touring version of  “The Price is Right".  He even tried getting back into politics at one point, and frankly I wouldn’t have minded if he did, but he’s probably right in thinking that that part of his career is in the past. From every account, he’s very different than the show he’s most known for, much more professional, incredibly intelligent, and incredibly caring about the world, and yes, he did give a hooker a check once and that’s why he had to stop being Mayor of Cincinnati, but-eh, oh well. You know what, I’m glad this documentation of humanity exists. I’d hate to imagine what people might think of it in the future but still…. Too many other shows that came before or after tried to be better than the guests they had on, tried to improve them or try to insult or demean them, for who or what they were; Springer for the most part, didn’t. Instead, he showed us, that, this is as much of who we are as anything else and that doesn’t change because some of us don’t want to see this part of us. We are both the best and worst of whatever we are. As much as I, in particular try to seek out the good and best of everything especially in all entertainment and artistic mediums, I’m happy that the worst is around as well. I’m genuinely gonna miss “The Jerry Springer Show”, for that reason, it embraced the so-called “worst” of us both in terms society and television and didn’t judge it as such.

I guess that’s why I’m a bit skeptical of a “Judge Jerry” show, now. On top of having way too many Judge shows to begin with, Springer didn’t want to judge his guests. He wanted us to ultimately “Take care of ourselves, and each other.” He always said that at the end of each episode of the show, after he gave his “Final Thoughts” (Which I’ve joked on more than one occasion were also that show’s “Only Thoughts”); of course, the show was the place we didn’t do that, but I like that idea of that as well. That’s a good message; this is what happens to us when ultimately we don’t take care of ourselves and each other, you end up on his show having all those pains and repressed feelings explode out of you, and for all it’s faults I’d much rather that all happen on a gritty set in Chicago with a ceiling fan and a stripper pole than I would elsewhere where some kind of real tragedy could happen. “The Jerry Springer Show” is certainly one of the more unique evolutions or de-evolutions of a series that’s come around, and I hope it’s ultimately remembered positively and fondly for all those reasons.

Sometimes something has to be the worst in order to help reveal what truly is the best, and you can’t take away the fact that Jerry Springer did indeed do that job well.

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