On the air? They don't care, they've got no shame
There was one guy who I'm sure felt a little strange
When he found out that his wife had a sex change
They have a tendency to scream and yell constantly
They have a history of ripping off their shirts
Jerry Springer, more colloquially referred to as The Jerry Springer Show, is an American syndicated tabloid talk show produced and hosted by its namesake, a former mayor of Cincinnatinote . Airing from September 30, 1991 to July 26, 2018, peaking in popularity between the late '90s and early '00s, the show is inseparable from its reputation as one of the most infamous Guilty Pleasures in American television history, to the point of having to pull itself up in content quality to qualify as "Trash TV". TV Guide named it as the worst show ever — which it proudly declared at the start of every episode. It (along with Ricki Lake and Jenny Jones) paved the way for shock talk shows, and also outlasted most of its competition in the process.
In the show's first few years, before it became wildly popular, it took a more serious approach, with episodes that dealt with serious issues and politics (in one episode, Jerry spent a night with a homeless teenager living on the streets). However, they came to the realization that the formula of "poking guests with sticks until they started fighting" earned much better ratings.
Your standard episode will feature a woman telling her husband's mistress to stay the *beep* away from her man, then dumping him at the end of the episode. Then there's usually some sort of crossdresser and a person with some weird sexual fetish. Maybe a young girl who sleeps with older men. Every now and then, you also get Klansmen and neo-Nazis for good measure.
The show is notable for its security, as fights start about five times an episode. Similarly, Springer let his security chief, Steve Wilkos, fill in for him; this led to Steve getting his own talk show, which deals with very serious issues and is most definitely not the walking cartoon that Springer's show is.
It goes without saying that the show couldn't be quite that bad without some help. While (presumably) most of the guests are real note , the production crew has admitted to giving them advice on how to make a better show out of their issues. In addition, Jerry and Steve themselves often dispense advice, on-stage or off-stage. A short-lived show called The Springer Hustle covered the backstage activity.
The 1998 movie Ringmaster starred Jerry playing, essentially (but not in name), himself; the next year, he also showed up in the second Austin Powers movie, with Dr. Evil and Scott as guests.
In 2003, Stewart Lee and Richard Thomas launched the long-running London musical Jerry Springer: The Opera. The plot has Jerry shot by a guest, whereupon the Devil forces him to host his show in Hell and thereby try to reconcile the devil's realm with Heaven. The musical's religious satire, combined with heavy use of profanity, led to protests by Christian groups and even an attempt to prosecute the producers under Britain's blasphemy law, which didn't succeed because the law in question was vestigial.
On June 13, 2018, NBCUniversal announced it was canceling the series after 27 seasons due to low ratings, with the final episodes being taped on July 6 and the finale airing July 26. However, The CW—as part of its acquisition of rerun rights that fall—has the option to resume production of the series. In September 2018, The CW began airing the reruns as its sole weekday daytime programming, replacing The Robert Irvine Show (ironically as it is basically a watered-down version of Jerry's show). The rerun ended in September 2021, as the network chose to give up its daytime slot in return for a two-hour Saturday primetime slot. Meanwhile, Jerry moved on to host the courtroom show Judge Jerry (a Judge Judy copy), which started airing in national syndication in September 2019. Judge Jerry itself was canceled in 2022 after three years, and Jerry would eventually pass away in April 2023.
"TROPES! TROPES! TROPES! TROPES!"
- Argument of Contradictions: When you're watching this show, get ready to watch the trailer trash let this fly. "Yes, you did cheat on me, nine times!" "No, I din't." "Yes, you did!" "No, I din'!" "And the lie detector said... that was a lie!" "'What?!!!! #@#$# (bleep bleep)"
- Attack! Attack! Attack!: In one episode featuring racists, one guy's reaction to anything said about him or his uncle was always to attempt to rush the stage. Note the "attempt".
- Attractive Bent-Gender: Some of the transvestite guests, of both genders, can really pull off playing the opposite sex.
- Author Filibuster: Jerry's final thoughts are always about the main subject of the episode and articulate, no matter how bizarre, crazy, and trashy today's episode got.
- Award Snub: Invoked and parodied. One bumper had the announcer say, "We haven't won an Emmy in eight years, and we aren't going to start now."
- Berserk Button:
- Neo-Nazis - not surprising, since Jerry's Jewish and lost much of his family in The Holocaust.
- Jerry also threw off a guest (and left the show during the remainder of the airtime) for claiming he could make anyone a porn star - including children.
- Bestiality Is Depraved: The shocking case of a man who married his horse.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Steve is very helpful to the people that come to him for help, but he has zero respect for the Jerkass guests and will make them cower in fear when he confronts them.
- Big "OMG!": From "I Refuse To Wear Clothes": The first guest walks out and starts to unbutton her dress, showing that she had nothing on underneath, prompting this exact reaction from a female audience member.
- Bigot with a Crush: There was an episode featuring a trailer trash family who were avowed white supremacists. A fight erupted between the father and son when the daughter revealed that her brother was sleeping with a black girl. More humorously, a black girl in the audience then offered the father a hug, which he rejected.Audience: Give him a hug! Give him a hug!
- Big "SHUT UP!": A Jerkass Casanova once fell victim to the chant "Sit down man-whore! Sit down man-whore!"
- Blatant Lies:
- While Maury and The Steve Wilkos Show are about finding the truth (and occasionally pulling it out like teeth), the guests on Springer revel in revealing their ugly truths. As opposed to Maury and Wilkos, Jerry doesn't use polygraph tests (a notoriously unreliable method).
- Many of the guests come on as the result of Blatant Lies, such as a cheating spouse or really being of the opposite sex.
- Break the Haughty: Jerry tends to stand back and watch for shits and giggles. Steve, on the other hand, has no problem putting people in their place to the point where they're in tears. See "The Reason You Suck" Speech below.
- Breakout Character: Head of security Steve Wilkos, who gained enough popularity among the fanbase in his own right that he got his own show. Wilkos would be greeted with "STEVE!" chants from the audience whenever he'd subdue particularly rowdy guests.
- Catchphrase: More of a "Catch Chant" at this point, but "JERRY! JERRY! JERRY!" and "WE LOVE LESBIANS! WE LOVE LESBIANS! WE LOVE LESBIANS!" and "LET'S SEE! LET'S SEE! LET'S SEE!" whenever someone mentions they're a stripper (they get that response or "WE LOVE STRIPPERS! WE LOVE STRIPPERS! WE LOVE STRIPPERS!") or any kind of performer.
- Celebrity Star:
- Cluster Bleep-Bomb: Just about every bleeping segment on every bleeping episode other than Jerry's "final thought".
- Covered in Gunge: The Food Fight episodes, any episode with a wedding cake, the mud wrestlers...
- Darker and Edgier: The Steve Wilkos Show is this for Jerry Springer. While Jerry deals with cases of strange sexual fetishes, cheating spouses, and general weirdness, Steve deals with cases of rape, incest, child molestation, and murder. Steve's show also has a much more angry, harsh, and depressing tone to it than Jerry's does. However, in a bit of inversion, Jerry's set is dark and industrial looking while Steve's is bright and somewhat more contemporary. Basically, Wilkos is to an extent what Springer was in its early years.
- Deadpan Snarker:
"White trash? On our show?"
- Jerry. Other than the fighting and trailer park drama, one of the appeals of the show is Jerry ribbing the guests in witty ways.
- The audience members can get some good ones in too. Most of the Q&A near the end of the show makes fun of the attendees.
- Early-Installment Weirdness: As stated above, the early seasons were more like fellow Multimedia talk show Donahue than what it would eventually become; the first season even taped at Springer's old Cincinnati station WLWT - owned by Multimedia and only seen on other Multimedia stations. The second season saw Multimedia commence national distribution, and taping moved to the NBC Tower in Chicago (well before NBC merged with Universal; it's since moved to Stamford, CT for tax reasons), and even then the format the show's known for didn't really develop until around 1995-96.
- Everyone Has Standards:
- There was an episode entitled "I Married a Horse", which was about precisely what it sounds like. Jerry was visibly horrified.
- A guest claimed that he was able to make anyone into a porn star, even children, disgusting Jerry enough to hurl him off the stage and then leave the production for a while.
- When Casey Anthony was acquitted, Jerry reportedly went on to say that he would not invite her on his show.
- The audience tends to be okay with just about any kind of crazy behavior, except bigotry, and especially not anti-Semitism, and, especially anti-Semitism directed towards Jerry.
- They also humorously defy it. Any kind of attempt to improve the quality of the show is jokingly rejected. During the second-to-last segment, giving individual members of the audience the chance to ask questions of the guests, when someone offers a suggestion that could help the guests' lives, the crowd would chant "Go to Oprah! Go to Oprah!"
- Failed Attempt at Drama: One man gave an angry look at his enemy, only to lose his footing and clumsy fall down on his tail, much to the audience's mocking laughter.
- A Family Affair: While cheating in general is pretty common with their guests, this variation also shows up a lot ("You Slept with My Stripper Sister", "He Cheated on Me with My Cousin", etc.) as it makes the guests even more likely to start fighting each other.
- Food Fight: Usually done around the holidays - a dysfunctional family is seated around a table with a huge spread. Sometimes the setting is left alone, but most of the time the meal predictably and quickly devolves into an all-out war with plenty of flying dishes.
- Foregone Conclusion: Along with the above "hell feast" episodes, 99% of the time a wedding cake is set up in the studio or a guest brings flowers, the flowers or cake have about 30 seconds to live.
- Genre Blindness: You're invited to appear on The Jerry Springer Show and you're surprised your loved one has a secret? Really?
- Gentle Giant: Steve has a Hair-Trigger Temper when he deals with what he has to, be it on his own show or working security for Jerry. However, he means well and tries his best to help those that deserve it. He can tower over most of the bad guys on either show.
- Girl on Girl Is Hot: One of the show's operating principles."We love lesbians!"
- If It's You, It's Okay: After the reveal that their lover is transgender, some will continue the relationship.
- Such being the case with a man named Gucci and his transgender lover Coco who proposed to her on live TV even after the discovery that she was born a man and transitioned. Gucci also insists that he "isn't gay now" but he still loves Coco and wants to be with her.
- The Klan: Like the Neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan were also a popular subject in the '90s, and a favorite group for Jerry and the audience to hate.
- Laser-Guided Karma: Numerous times, a person brings their committed partner on the show to tell them "I've been cheating on you and want to be with this other person", only to be rejected by the other person (e.g. "it was just a fling"), thus getting a taste of what it feels like to be thrown over. Bonus points if the third person is a sibling/cousin/close friend of the first, and decides to remain loyal to them.
- Long-Runners: Aired non-stop episodes for 27 years.
- Ms. Fanservice:
- The strippers.
- The lesbians (depending on your taste).
- Some of the guests.
- Lesbian guest strippers. (This happened twice.)
- When The Locust's Justin Pearson and his friends staged a four-way cheating farce for the show, the first two catfights ended up with "Alisia" in some state of undress.
- "I Refuse To Wear Clothes"
- News Broadcast: After leaving politics, Jerry became a highly respected news-anchor for Cincinnati's NBC affiliate, with a segment devoted to his personal commentary, which was always intelligent, thoughtful, and passionate. His "final thoughts" on the talk show started out as a spiritual successor to these commentary segments before the show changed tone and emulated Geraldo Rivera rather than Phil Donahue. Sadly, his name is so synonymous with trash TV now that it's been impossible for Jerry to return to serious journalism or politics and be taken seriously by the general public. He tried giving commentary on the Chicago NBC affiliate, which so disgusted the 10 PM anchors that they both quit by the time he had given the third comment. There's an episode of the This American Life radio series that examines this in detail. In 2005, he shook off the rep and hosted a serious, syndicated political talk show, though it ended in 2006.
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Some of the guests can qualify, such as the transsexual, double amputee masochist (she did it to herself for fun).
- Not Blood Siblings:
- Done in a bait and switch to draw in viewers. Whenever the show's topic is "I want to marry/am sleeping with my brother/sister", they always turn out to be stepsiblings, so it doesn't matter either way in the eyes of the law.
- There was one case of Parental Incest where they were blood related: the mother had put the daughter up for adoption as a baby, they had reunited when the daughter was in her early/mid-thirties, the daughter came on to her mom, and the mom went along with it.
- And another one where the two were half-siblings who shared a father, but grew up separated. Then the sister dropped him for another brother, who at least wasn't blood related to her.
- Only Sane Man: Jerry himself; he's the only one with a cool head.
- Pie in the Face: It's highly unlikely that wedding cake is going to get properly cut and eaten... it's going in the face of the cheater.
- Pixellation: When you have strippers and people getting clothes ripped off all the time, you need this trope.
- Point-and-Laugh Show: The Trope Codifier. Any such show with this premise is taking its cues from this show.
- Pretender Diss: Jerry delivers a pretty epic one to a Ku Klux Klan member after the latter puts on a Nazi armband and an SS cap on the basis that the Klan hood wasn't bad enough and America needed something "stronger". This is a very personal insult for Jerry, who lost a lot of his extended family in the Holocaust.Jerry: You have no idea how much I wish, how much I wish that the real Nazis of the world 50 years ago were like you. We would all still be alive.
- Pretty in Mink: In a "Too Hot For TV" special involving porn stars, one showed up wearing a full-length fur coat. When Jerry asked why, she said she heard it was cold in Chicago. It also allowed her to do a bit of teasing to the audience before fully revealing herself.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
- Steve ain't afraid to pull these ones on the wifebeaters, the child abusers, or any general scumbags when he's in charge.
- The "Final Thoughts" consist of Jerry tearing his guests a new one... except that they don't get it because he speaks at above a 5th-Grade vocabulary level.
- Refuge in Audacity: Pretty much the whole series, since it revels in sleaze, stupidity, and chaos.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: "H-O-R-E!"
- Running Gag:
- "I'm not a slut!" "Sorry, you can't be on our show."
- The police siren that goes off every time someone mentions they've been in jail.
- Jerry reluctantly picking up a wig or piece of weave when it's been ripped up in a fight.
- The sound effect of a boxing bell rung whenever a fight breaks out or is played to start a fight, which usually works.
- Self-Deprecation: Jerry often lightheartedly apologizes for his show when he's on another show.
- Shoe Slap: When a female guest takes off her shoes, this is usually what they're aiming for. Others have tried to rise above that.
- Signing-Off Catchphrase: "Until next time, take care of yourself, and each other."
- Soundtrack Dissonance: The 1993-1999 theme was a rather pleasant saxophone piece that would feel more at home on a 1980s Game Show than, well, Jerry Springer.
- Slut-Shaming: The sluts are mocked, but then again so is everyone else.
- Spin-Off: The Steve Wilkos Show.
- Strictly Formula: It's almost pointless to break the show down into seasons since one episode is as ridiculous as the next.
- Stylistic Suck: The self-described worst show on television, on purpose.
- Subculture of the Week: This week "adulterers", next week "neo-nazis", the week after that "guys that screw goats", etc.
- Sub-Par Supremacist: Whenever a self-proclaimed white supremacist appeared on the show, such as a Klan member, they tend to be either rather poor, very dimwitted, or laughably overweight while advocating some sort of race war in which they'd be the first casualties. It makes for better mocking.
- Tag Team: If a woman is handicapped or pregnant, she gets to bring a designated ass-kicker (usually a friend or sister) to get into the more physical confrontations.
- Talk Show: It used to be a prim and proper one, but has long since become the opposite.
- Those Wacky Nazis: Neo-Nazis were a popular subject matter back in the '90s, and a favorite for the audience and Jerry to pile on.
- Too Hot for TV: Many specials and some DVDs are sold with this label. Sometimes it's just without the swearing bleeped out, and sometimes it's far more explicit.
- Trans Equals Gay: One of the most notorious perpetrators of this trope. Any time a transgender woman and her cisgender male lover (or alleged lover) are featured, the show always treats them as gay men even though neither would count as such.
- Transatlantic Equivalent:
- A UK version called The Springer Show aired for six months in 2005. In the years since, Springer has said that while he had no regrets about doing the show and was fascinated by how different (and yet in many ways, similar) the problems faced by his British guests were, he found it immensely frustrating dealing with the British television executives, who were way more conservative and less willing to push the envelope than their American counterparts were. (Also on the subject of Springer and UK television, he briefly subbed as host in 1999 on ITV's This Morning- a straight morning chat/talk show without fights or antics. Huh?)
- Springer's British gig was probably ten years ahead of its time: British TV is now graced by The Jeremy Kyle Show, where the fair-minded and reasonable host parades unedifying people with unedifying problems to work it out in public, who frequently resort to fists and the Cluster F-Bomb to resolve their grievances, egged on by an audience who would not have been out of place in the Roman arena. TV executives not only have no issues with Jezza, they actively encourage him.
- Averted in the first half of 2019. As Jeremy Kyle didn't use actors, one episode caused a fatal tragedy off the air once the show was finished, leading to the show's cancellation. In what will be the only utterance of this phrase in history: Jerry Springer was above this.
- A Franco-Belgian version titled Ça va se savoir! ("they'll know about it!"), hosted by Simon Monceau, aired on RTL9 in France and AB3 in Belgium from 2002 to 2008. Unlike the original, it was upfront about its "guests" being actors and said such in its closing credits.
- Transparent Closet: Occasionally they will have a guy who hooks up with men or drag queens, who still insists that he is not gay or even bisexual and has no attraction to men.
- The Unfair Sex: Averted. The audience does not hesitate to shout "Whore! Whore! Whore!" when a female guest is unfaithful.
- Unsettling Gender-Reveal: Just about every fifth episode. Most featured men who, up until that point, thought they were dating a woman will unleash their fury upon the newly-discovered man. It's inverted on a few occasions where women find out their boyfriends are actually women. And subverted in a few cases where they decide to stay together anyway.
- Villainous Breakdown: Much of Steve's lie detector tests and door choosings often end this way with the bad party breaking down.