Springer, Jerry

▪ 1999

      In 1998, amid flying fists and bleeped-out epithets, "The Jerry Springer Show" continued its ascent to the top rung of the talk-show ladder. While so-called trash TV had flourished earlier in the 1990s, by the later part of the decade many other daytime talk shows had cleaned up their acts or disappeared altogether. "The Jerry Springer Show" had, however, headed in the opposite direction; what had begun seven years earlier as a relatively tame talk show had mutated over the years to become a program whose outrageous topics had included "I'm pregnant by my brother" and "I'm a breeder for the Klan."

      "Springer" had enjoyed only a modest following, but a pivotal change occurred in 1996 following a transfer in the show's ownership; scenes of physical fighting among the guests, which had previously been edited out, were now included, and the ratings soared. Allegations that many of the battles had been staged seemed to have little effect on the show's popularity, and many political and community leaders publicly condemned the show and its brawls. Critics scored a brief victory in mid-1998 when the show's producers, perhaps to appease detractors or to draw advertisers, announced that they would take the fighting off the air. On June 8 the first show with the physical violence edited out was aired. It took only a month of declining ratings (the show's audience decreased by 14% during this time) before the fights were resumed.

      For someone so enmeshed in the world of the absurd, Springer had taken a fairly conservative early path. He was born Feb. 13, 1944, in London, and his family immigrated to the U.S. when he was five years old, taking up residence in New York City. He graduated (1965) with a political science degree from Tulane University, New Orleans, and he earned (1968) a law degree from the Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago. Following graduation he worked on the presidential campaign of Robert F. Kennedy. In the early '70s he embarked on his own political career in Ohio, serving on Cincinnati's city council, and in 1977 he became the city's mayor. A failed attempt at the governor's office led to his departure from politics, after which he turned to television journalism. In the early 1980s he began work as a reporter at a local television station; he later became anchor and was the recipient of seven Emmy awards for commentaries during his tenure. He cast his hat into the talk-show ring in 1991 with the launch of "The Jerry Springer Show," and by 1998 it was being seen by millions of viewers in more than 40 countries.


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Universalium. 2010.

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