The show is ostensibly a talk show where troubled or dysfunctional families come to discuss their problems before a studio audience so that the audience or host can offer suggestions on what can be done to resolve their situations. In actuality, the show has come to epitomize the so-called "trash TV talk show", as each episode of the show focuses on topics such as adultery, bestiality, divorce, homophobia, homosexuality, incest, infidelity, pedophilia, pornography, racism, strange fetishes, or transvestism, which frequently result in fighting between guests. At one point, the show proudly boasted that it was voted the "Worst TV Show Ever" by TV Guide magazine. Currently, the show's slogan is "an hour of your life you'll never get back". The Jerry Springer Show has received widespread criticism and caused many controversies for a variety of reasons including its elements of prurience, foul language and the exploitation of the vulnerable.
This cycle is repeated about twice for other sets of guests on the show. Once all guests have told their stories, there is a "question and answer" segment where audience members ask guests questions relevant to their situations, although usually their questions come to insult a guest. Finally, Springer ends the show with a segment titled "Final Thought", in which he shares his feelings about the stories he has heard for the day's show. He ends the segment with the concluding statement, "Until next time, take care of yourselves and each other".
Generally, Springer tends to present his program standing up in the stands rather than the main stage.
Sometimes the show will have a look back at an early episode. These have been rebranded as Classic Springer. These shows are interspersed with commentary from Springer, usually before and after commercial breaks.
It started as a politically-oriented talk show, a longer version of the commentary for which Springer had gained local fame as a reporter and anchor. Guests early on included Oliver North and Jesse Jackson, and the topics included homelessness and gun politics, as well as social effects of rock and roll, featuring shock rock stars like GG Allin and GWAR as guests. Low ratings led it to be run by a new producer, Richard Dominick. The search for higher ratings led the program towards tawdry and provocative topics, becoming more and more successful as it became more and more obscene, although it still covered issues that were more sensitive and less sensational. It became, through Springer's own admittance, a "freak show" where guests seek their 15 minutes of fame through discussion and demonstrations of deviant behavior. Its extraordinary success has led it to be broadcast in dozens of countries. The show gained so much popularity that for a while it was the top-rated daytime talk show in the United States.
In 1997 and 1998, the show reached its ratings peak, at one point becoming the first talk show in years to beat The Oprah Winfrey Show. However, it had since been featuring almost non-stop fighting between guests, triggering mass protests from TV personalities and some priests. The Chicago City Council suggested that if the fistfights and chair-throwing were real, then the guests should be arrested for committing acts of violence in the city, as alderman Ed Burke was concerned over the fact that the off-duty Chicago police officers serving as security guards for the program failed to take legal action against fighting guests. Springer explained that the violence on the program "look[ed] real" to him, also arguing that the fighting on the show "never, ever, ever glamorizes violence". Ultimately, the City Council chose not to pursue the matter. Because of this probe and other external and internal pressures, the fighting was taken off the show temporarily before being allowed again in a less violent nature. In the years of the show having toned down the fights, viewership has declined but remains respectable by newer standards of daytime television ratings.
However, there has been continuous debate over the actual authenticity of the fighting. Marvin Kitman, television critic for the Newsday newspaper, felt that the fighting had been choreographed beforehand. Christopher Sterling of the George Washington University media department compared the program to professional wrestling. Sixteen former guests of The Jerry Springer Show, who were interviewed on various U.S. media outlets such as the entertainment news program Extra, Rolling Stone magazine, and The New York Post newspaper, even claimed there was a "fight quota" for each episode and that they and other guests were encouraged to fight one another. Springer himself even admitted in an October 2000 interview with the Reuters news agency:
I would never watch my show. I'm not interested in it. It's not aimed towards me. This is just a silly show.
In August 2000, Springer himself appeared on CNN's Larry King Live to discuss the incident, claiming that it "had nothing to do with the show" and that his talk show does not glamorize deviant behavior. On March 27, 2002, after 18 hours of deliberating from jurors, Mr. Panitz was convicted of the murder after a 10-day trial and sentenced to life.
In 2001, efforts from groups like the Parents Television Council and American Family Association made some advertisers decrease or stop their sponsorship of Springer. For the United Kingdom, the Independent Television Commission banned Springer and other tabloid talk programs from being shown on television during daytime hours on school holidays in response to numerous parental complaints and concerns about children's potential exposure to the salacious content. The show also topped TV Guide magazine's 2002 list of the "The Worst TV Shows Ever". The phrase "Jerry Springer Nation" began to be used by some who see the program as being a bad influence on the morality of the United States. In addition, the phrase has shown the association of Springer with any "lowbrow" type of entertainment in general.
In 2003, a British opera inspired by the series, Jerry Springer: The Opera, began playing in the United Kingdom. The same year, it was revealed that a group of guests from Hayward, California faked a "love triangle" for an appearance on two episodes of the show; one guest in the group was murdered, but Hayward police determined that his appearance was not connected to his murder.
In January 2006, the show was renewed for its sixteenth season, ending speculation that Springer would leave his talk show to run for elected office in Ohio, where he is the former mayor of Cincinnati. On May 12, 2006, Springer celebrated his show's 3,000th episode by throwing a party on the show (which no one but Jerry showed up to humorously), and showed many clips, including rare excerpts from the first episode.
In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, a Commercial High Court trial was scheduled for summer 2006 to resolve a dispute between Flextech Television and NBC Universal over Flextech in 2002 cancelling its 1998 contract to broadcast Springer in the UK as long as new episodes continued to be produced in the U.S.
In 2007, security director Wilkos left Jerry Springer to host his own syndicated talk show. "The Steve Wilkos Show" is also shot at the NBC Tower in Chicago and produced by Richard Dominick, who continues to produce Springer as well. On July 15, 2007, it was announced that Springer was picked up by NBC-Universal through the 2009-2010 season. Also, VH1 ran a documentary series The Springer Hustle, going "behind the scenes" of the show, having already run another Springer-related documentary in 2005 titled When Jerry Springer Ruled the World. Springer's appearance on the ABC television network show Dancing with the Stars led to an increase in viewership for the first quarter of 2007.
A recurring character, the comical "Reverend Shnorr", was introduced in 2007 to perform weddings on the program and counsel certain guests on "Biblical values". The security staff for the program also was given new additions, as starting in the seventeenth season, three female security guards were added. Certain professional athletes have come on the show as one-off security guards for some episodes. They include hockey player Joe Corvo, and mixed martial arts fighters Andrei Arlovski , Shonie Carter, and Bas Rutten.
Certain advertisers continue to avoid buying ad time for Springer. However, the show has continued to keep steady ratings in the February 2008 "Sweeps" period.
Executive producer Richard Dominick resigned after the end of the 17th season; Rachelle Consiglio, wife of former Springer security director Steve Wilkos will replace Dominick. The set decorations added during the 17th season will be removed.
During the show's most popular era in the late 1990s, The Jerry Springer Show released videotapes and later DVDs marketed as Too Hot for TV. They contained uncensored nudity, profanity, and violence that was edited out from broadcast to conform to FCC standards for broadcast decency. The releases sold remarkably well and inspired similar sets from other series. Eventually, the show started producing similar "uncensored" monthly pay-per-view/video on demand specials as well.
Sex, violence and public humiliation... It must be the Jerry Springer Show Take the phone off the hook and draw the curtains. America's newly-crowned chat-show king is revealing all his mesmeric and low- down horror walo-wallthis weekend. MOLLY BLAKE reports
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