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Why Jerry Springer Once Called His Career-Defining Show “Stupid”

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Talk show host Jerry Springer died on Thursday, April 25, following a short illness. He was made famous by his controversial show, The Jerry Springer Show, which ran for 27 years. Despite its longevity and its role in cementing his fame, Springer once called the program “stupid.”

Springer has served as an attorney and politician, in addition to his career as a television personality. He is credited as the pioneer of “trash television” just as the genre began to emerge into prominence. Here is what he thought about the kingmaker program – and why.

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Jerry Springer once called ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ stupid

The show was alight with controversy / (c)Universal TV/courtesy Everett Collection

The Jerry Springer Show was at the forefront of a new brand of television, one that Springer utilized while also voicing a very honest opinion of. Initially, the program focused solely on politics; this approach is credited with the show’s initial low ratings. then, the show underwent a complete overhaul focused on the outrageous and controversial, with an emphasis on colorful guests.

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RELATED: Host Of ‘The Jerry Springer Show’ Jerry Springer Dies At Age 79

“It’s stupid,” said Springer back in 2017 on Today. “And it’s got a niche, and no one else kind of goes in that niche, so I think that’s one of the reason it’s lasted.” Last it did; this same show that started in 1991 with poor ratings ended up running to 2018.

Credit to controversies

JERRY SPRINGER SHOW, Jerry Springer, 1991-present / Everett Collection

“No one’s watching because of me,” Springer added. “They’re watching because the stories are crazy and the people are outrageous.” The people were so outrageous that the show employed on-set security personnel to deal with any outbursts of violence that might – and did – happen. Before the show ended, guests would often get emotional in general and with each other, sometimes resulting in brawls.

NBC breaks down The Jerry Springer Show into three main stages of change. It started very basic in set and appearance of Springer to channel the feel of Donahue, as hosted by Phil Donahue. Eventually, the set was given a catwalk and Springer walked between the aisles in the audience, allegedly to avoid fighting on stage. When viewership rose higher than ever, the set was upgraded to accommodate the higher viewership.

The early days channeled Donahue. Pictured: Phil Donahue (center) and fellow talk show hosts and friends, (aired November 15, 1992), ph: Al Levine / TV Guide / ©NBC / courtesy Everett Collection

Critical response to the show was negative, with TV Guide declaring it in 2002 as the worst TV of all time. As far as general ratings, the show peaked in 1997 and 1998, right when it became the only talk show to eclipse The Oprah Winfrey Show. The fighting on stage has left viewers – even critics on the same side – divided; some were concerned that security never took legal action against brawlers, while others cast doubt onto the authenticity of any fistfights, suggesting they were staged for spectacle.

Even Springer seemed attuned to the effect his program had and apologized on its behalf with, “I’ve ruined the culture.”

THE JERRY SPRINGER SHOW, guests fighting during the show, 1991- . ©NBC Universal / Courtesy Everett Collection

RELATED: The Scandal That Helped Shape Jerry Springer’s Career

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