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GET OFF MY STAGE!!
Steve Wilkos, at least Once an Episode
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The Steve Wilkos Show is a syndicated daytime Talk Show that debuted on September 10, 2007 and is distributed by NBCUniversal Television Distribution. After serving as director of security on The Jerry Springer Show, Steve Wilkos, a former U.S. Marine and Chicago police officer who, from 1993 to 2007, served as that program's director of security, was given a show of his own after subbing for Springer himself on several occasions (such as during Springer's stint as a contestant on the third season of Dancing with the Stars), which led Wilkos to gain a fan following, particularly because of the special "Steve to the Rescue"-themed episodes.

Though it is part of the "tabloid/conflict talk" genre, and Springer serves as one of its co-executive producers, to say that Wilkos' show is Darker and Edgier than Springer is just a bit of an understatement; in addition to polygraphing suspected cheaters, confronting controlling partners and running DNA tests that have become commonplace in the genre, Wilkos confronts and polygraphs accused rapists, pedophiles, child abusers, and even murderers on his show. In addition to not letting an accused guest sit down, Wilkos quite often tosses that guest's chair aside or smashes it altogether, and will tear into said guest upon his or her guilt being confirmed before instructing him or her to leave the stage or the studio.

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This show provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents:
    • Many episodes deal with parents who have been accused of physical or sexual abuse against children, who deny committing the acts in question, even after their lie detector test proves otherwise. A few episodes have also dealt with accusations of parents murdering their own children or setting them up to be killed. One in particular, which aired in March 2009, featured a guest named Ken, whose daughter, Letitia, was killed two years prior; the polygraph he took revealed that Ken had sexually molested his daughter and set her up to be killed.note 
    • A notable episode dealing with the topic aired during the show's premiere week in September 2007, in which Wilkos conducts a jailhouse interview with a woman (who, in a rarity for the show, had her identity concealed to protect her children) who was sentenced to between nine and 20 years in prison on charges of involvement and distribution of child pornography.note  Later in the interview, when she sticks to her story and fails to show any genuine remorse for hurting her children in such a way, Wilkos rebukes her for not protecting her daughters and putting them in such a situation, before ending the interview in disgust:
      Wilkos: I hate you for what you did to your daughter! I can't even look at you anymore! I'm done talking to you!
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    • There has been at least one episode in which a guest came to seek help for their abusive behavior. In a February 2010 episode, a guest named Janelle admits physically abusing and neglecting her son. She even had him sleep in a trash can, putting him in a closet and taping his mouth shut. She later revealed that she directed her abuse toward the child because she hated her then-husband for abusing her. She ultimately called her state's Department of Human Services to take her son away so she couldn't keep abusing her. Although Wilkos railed her for smirking, which Janelle cited was due to the awkwardness of revealing her story on national television, and for wanting help to get her son back, when Janelle showed genuine remorse for what she did and acknowledged she couldn't be a good parent as long as she views her son through the prism of her hatred of his father, he acknowledges that she did need help before she could get her son back:
      Wilkos: I am mad at you, and I don't like what you did. But the one thing is, I do see somebody that, I think, wants to make a change in their life. I think it's somebody who realizes they're making bad mistakes. [...] I think you're making a powerful statement to everybody out there: "Yes, I abuse my son, I put a stop to it". I want to hear you say you're never going to do it again.
      Janelle (crying): I won't. But I don't think it's best for him to come see me now.
      Wilkos: I believe you. I believe you, and I think you need help.
      Janelle: And I'm gonna... I just can't raise him right.
      Wilkos: Are you ready to go get some help?
      Janelle: Yes. The sooner I get help, the sooner I get my baby back.
      Wilkos: Let's go get you some help.
    • A 2016 case involved a young woman named Monique who had done prison time for alleged involvement in her infant daughter's death and took a lie detector test to clear her name. Despite her hysterical sobbing (which produced no tears unless she was talking about how her own life had been ruined by the accusations) and constant denials, Wilkos didn't buy her story, and was proven right when the lie detector test revealed Monique had lied. Monique (as well as her mother, who continued to support her) was the recipient of one of Wilkos' all-time fiercest roastings, since she had gotten away with only a 16-month sentence for a crime that should have landed her behind bars for 60 years.
      Wilkos: [to Monique's mother] You're [expletive bleeped] delusional!
      Monique's Mother: Why you gotta be so damn rude?!
      Wilkos: [sarcastically] Yeah, I'm rude. ... I may be rude, but I get to the truth! Get that through your head!
  • Actually Pretty Funny: Wilkos will occasionally laugh when some of his guests says and/or does something funny. Among the notable examples are Lamont (a guest appearing in a 2011 episode dealing with cheating accusations, who claimed he does a meditation exercise he invented called "Wu-Sai," which he says has kept him off of smoking marijuana and demonstrates much to Wilkos and the audience's amusement) and Kayla (a guest from an April 2016 episode of the same topical matter, whose eccentric and childish behavior – which was probably enhanced by her pregnancy, in addition to her insecurity over Joe, her boyfriend of eight months at the time of taping, possibly cheating, although his lie detector results were rendered moot since he confessed to most of the allegations to Kayla on-stage and before the show – left Steve in stitches at some points, even causing him to make a Carson-worthy quip when she laments about the "fat, ugly girls" that Joe talks to online before telling her that Kayla is one of the funniest guests ever to appear on the show, a compliment she embraces):
    Wilkos: ...and I assume you two [Kayla and Joe] had a lot of sex?
    Kayla: Yeah, we did at the beginning of the relationship before he started cheating with the fat, ugly girls he talks to. They're all ugly and fat!
    Wilkos: (chuckling, struggling to straighten up his face): How fat are they? (Steve chuckles and palms his face, as the audience chants "STEEEEEEEEEVE"; Kayla also wipes away her tears and laughs)
  • All Abusers Are Male: While many episodes dealing with abuse involve men as the accused perpetrators, the show manages to avert this by sometimes featuring women that have been accused of or have admitted to physically and/or sexually abusing children, especially if they are the parent, other acts of abuse or neglect, or mentally/physically abusing their significant others. In the latter case, Wilkos acknowledges that the female guest should not mentally/physically abuse their mate, though does not rake them over the coals for it as much as he does the male guests who do it or the female guests revealed to be child abusers.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: Wilkos never lets the accused sit down unless they have a medical condition or, irrespective of any heinous behavior they may have committed, are a minor. The nature of what the guest is accused of doing doesn't matter.note  Essentially, he treats being allowed to sit on his chairs a privilege. He requires guests to remain standing once they have arrived on-stage or get out of the chair if they're already sitting down when he references the abuse/crime alleged at the segment's start to keep them uncomfortable because the accused didn't allow others to feel comfortable when they victimized them. If they happen to be exonerated by the lie detector test, they will be allowed to sit.note  If the test determines that they lied, they will suffer the additional humiliation of being told to "Get the hell off [his] stage!"
  • And Now For Something Completely Different: Although most episodes deal with accusations of abuse or infidelity, some deviate from the usual "conflict" format:
    • Several episodes have focused on guests, both teenagers and adults, who are struggling with drug addiction. The stories of how they became an addict, what the person's addiction has done to them and the lengths to which they have resorted to fuel their addiction (prostituting themselves to pay for drugs, involving children to fuel their habit, etc.) are very sobering to hear (no pun intended). Once the guests have been sent to Park Bench Group Counseling,note  the show sends a camera crew to follow their progress; if they have completed their treatment, the guest is invited back on the show to discuss how they are doing post-rehab.
    • The first segment of a 2013 episode dealt with a 16-year-old girl who was cyberbullied after a cheerleading photo was Photoshopped by another student to display her in a sexually compromising position was circulated among her schoolmates, which resulted in her dropping out of school. Atypical of the show, this episode had Wilkos field comments from members of the studio audience, most of whom were of high school to college age, to recount their experiences with bullying; most of the commenters also commended the girl for coming forward with her story, noting that it would be of help to those dealing with a similar bullying situation.
    • The 2018 episode "Racial Violence: They Tried to Hang My 15-Year-Old Son" told the story of a 15-year-old African American boy named Jason who miraculously survived an attempted lynching in his small Indiana town and was likely targeted not only because of his race, but because he is being raised by a lesbian couple. Local law enforcement were not much of a help, as Indiana has no hate crime laws and one of the perpetrators got only 30 days in jail. Wilkos and his show gave Jason's family $5,000 to aid with moving expenses.
  • Argument of Contradictions: As with Springer, get your popcorn. "Yes, you did cheat on me, nine times!" "No, I din't." "Yes, you did!" "No, I din'!" "And the lie detector said that you... did not tell the truth!" "'What?!!!! #@#$# (bleep bleep)"
  • Audience Participation:
    • During the show's first couple of seasons, a recurring closing segment had Wilkos read viewer e-mails, both positive and negative, which he would preface by saying, "If I read your letter, and if you're not a knucklehead, moron or belly-rubber, I'll send you a free T-shirt" and that those who sent him negative e-mails were "not allowed to watch". The segment appeared less frequently from the second through fourth seasons before being discontinued outright, with Wilkos dropping the "knucklehead," "moron" or "belly-rubber" references or his label for the show as "Moron-Free TV",note  with all viewers that had their e-mail read on-air receiving a T-shirt.
    • The studio audience can't help themselves and always seem to be taking part. Often the entire audio of an episode is peppered with ample censor bleeps, and often these censor bleeps get in the way of what Wilkos or the guests are trying to say.
    • The show maintains a 1-888 number for viewers to voice their opinions on a key question relating to one of the episode's segments; these opinions are never heard on-air in episodes aired after the date of said episode's broadcast. As mentioned in the pre-break interstitials for the "Big Question," viewers who call to comment are also able to receive special offers from sponsors.
  • Bad Liar: Almost a Once an Episode occurrence on this show. Wilkos can usually smell them a mile away even before lie detector results are revealed. The worst liars are often indicated by three words on their LDT results: "Extreme Deception Indicated."
  • Bald of Awesome: Wllkos. Almost everyone loves his baldness except for the scumbags getting chewed out and/or restrained by him.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Bad parents and criminals. Wilkos won't allow them to sit down and will remove their chairs after they admit as much. He has also been known to throw chairs at the really disgusting ones, albeit as they are exiting the stage. In one episode, he threw a chair at a wall at a force hard enough to lodge it into the set and said he wanted to do the very same to the guest. It turned out that said guest actually told the truth, but because his chair had been disposed of, he had nowhere to sit.
    • As a Marine himself, Wilkos is not particularly happy when he learns that a guest who has committed some wrongdoing or failed a lie detector test is also a Marine, and won't hesitate to tell the offender that they're a disgrace to the Corps. One example is ex-Marine Damien, who denied downloading child porn on his computer until it was revealed that he'd confessed backstage to the lie-detector examiner.
    • A few guests have attempted to attack the defendant when their test came back negative. Usually they're not successful, since the show employs a crew of security guards who are ready on standby to prevent (or sometimes, when they've already started hitting them, stop) a guest from assaulting the accused.
    • Wilkos will quickly correct guests who call him "dude," "buddy," or some variant other than by his name. And although he's been known to refer to some of his more odious guests as pigs, as a former cop, he won't tolerate anyone using that term to refer to police officers.
    • Guests who refuse to get out of their chairs and stand when Wilkos demands they do so.
    • Guests who run backstage before Wilkos is finished berating them. He will invariably follow them backstage and berate them for being "unable to take the heat."
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Some guests will either not submit to lie detector tests, always lie on them, or ignore instructions not to take narcotics or certain types of medication that would make them ineligible to be tested. If the latter occurs, the viewer basically can see coming that guest is guilty, especially if they agree to be re-tested while sober and become eligible for testing and fail it on the retake or intentionally fail to heed the instructions not to self-medicate. Even if they fail their test, the guest will still try to lie after their misdeeds are uncovered. Alternately, sometimes guests choose to confess to the lie detector examiner rather than submit to a test (i.e. Damien in "Did My Boyfriend Download Child Porn?"), even as they continue to deny any wrongdoing to the other guests and to Wilkos.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Wilkos 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 "NO!":
    • Occasionally, an accused guest will have this reaction upon being informed that they failed a lie detector test.
    • If an accused guest doesn't do this, then a family member or friend of the accused guest will. In the episode "Did You Beat and Brand Your 2-Year-Old Daughter?," the mother of the accused gets in several Big NO!'s and Big WHAT?!'s after learning that her daughter Amber failed a lie detector test for savagely beating the toddler, and is so upset she has to be restrained from beating the crap out of her daughter. By contrast, Amber stays calm until Steve starts berating her.
  • Black Comedy Rape: In the earlier seasons, Wilkos would often make jokes about people being raped in prison, often to try and unnerve accused sexual abusers who failed their lie detector tests. He seems to have completely stopped doing this over the years, probably because of the number of actual rape victims appearing on the show increasing tenfold. During a particularly uncomfortable moment in an episode titled "Abuser's Plan Backfires", a victim of incest in the audience tells her story courageously. A few minutes later, Wilkos goes into vivid and almost disgusting detail about prison rape, all while the victim is still in the audience watching.
  • Blatant Lies: Many, many of the guests, sometimes even after Wilkos reads their failed lie detector test results to them. Even when he gives the guest a chance to be honest before (and sometimes after) reading their results, they will keep insisting they're innocent.
  • Break the Haughty: Wilkos has no problem putting people in their place to the point where they're in tears.
  • Breaking Speech: Wilkos is extremely good at these. He sure knows how to break assholes into crying messes. Guess twelve years as a police officer and being a Marine gives you knowledge on how these people think and how you can take advantage of it.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin':
    • In a sense, it's the entire premise of the show. Wilkos takes every opportunity to remind his guests that his show has the best lie detector in the nation and to tout examiner Dan Ribacoff's experience in working with law enforcement.
    • In one episode, in which a woman was accused of abusing her infant daughter, Wilkos brought up the subject of the guest losing custody of her other, older daughter. The woman denied it, until he informed her that the paperwork pertaining to the case, which she'd left on the train she'd taken to get there (ostensibly on purpose), had been found by an engineer and faxed to the show.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "STEEEEEEEEEEEEVE!" is the equivalent to "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" frequently heard on Springer, to the point that some of the asshole guests mock it. Wilkos' audience does the "STEEEEEEEEEEEEVE!" chant to indicate that they agree with either his point or that of someone making their case against whichever scumbag is on stage. Particularly deep-voiced audience members can end up sounding like a mooing cow if they attempt this. Upset, courageous or angry victims and accusers will sometimes beat the audience to the punch on yelling the chant, but usually they say the word as any normal person would.
    • "We gotta do this standing up" or some minor variant thereof, when a guest accused of abuse or murder that is already sitting down is asked to get out of the chair, before telling their side of the story.
    • Wilkos' aforementioned "Get (the hell, your ass, the f&$#) off my stage!" Often preceded by "I hope you ROT IN HELL!," if the accused's crime is particularly heinous.
    • "Scumbag" is Wilkos' term for any of the asshole/rapist/pedophile/lying etc. guests.
    • "How many times did we test you?" - when a guest who has failed a lie detector test yells that they want to retake it.
    • "So far the results are pretty accurate, right?" - If Steve asks a guest this question after reading a batch of lie detector results in which the guest passed, it's a Foregone Conclusion that the guest failed the rest of the questions.
  • Clip Show: Since the third season, the show has aired a few episodes per year featuring clips compiled from past episodes, which center around a particular theme (such as shocking lie detector results and bad parents, among others).
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Several episodes in which the topic deals with accusations of infidelity have featured some unintentional lighter moments, due to guests who are quirky, to say the least, and particularly those whose excuses of denial for cheating are incredibly flimsy and implausible. A Clip Show from 2014, titled "The Lighter Side of Steve," featured a compilation of various wacky guests who have appeared on the show, mainly in the cheating-focused episodes.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Wilkos, in response to an e-mail a viewer sent in asking if he was gay:
    Wilkos: Steve, are you gay? Yes, I'm a very happy man.
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: Monique in "Could a Mother Murder Her Own Child?" kept insisting that she "did not do nothing to [her] daughter." The lie detector test corroborated this statement.
  • Crocodile Tears: Some guests try this to gain sympathy, especially after failing a lie detector test. Sometimes it takes the form of Crocodile Sobs without any visible tears, as with the aforementioned Monique, who failed an LDT for involvement in her daughter's death (the only time she actually shed any tears was when she was complaining about how being accused of murder had impacted her life). Wilkos is never fooled.
  • Daddy DNA Test: Some of the stories featured in episodes dealing with infidelity involve paternity tests conducted to reveal whether the male partner of a female guest accused of cheating had their child conceived by another man. Occasionally, the show also features DNA tests to determine whether a man believed to be their long-lost father is the father of a teen or adult guest.
  • Darker and Edgier: The Steve Wilkos Show is this for Jerry Springer. While Springer deals with cases of strange sexual fetishes, cheating spouses, and general weirdness, Wilkos deals with cases of rape, incest, child molestation, and murder. Wilkos' show also has a much more angry, harsh, and depressing tone to it than Springer's does. However, in a bit of inversion, Springer's set is dark and industrial looking, while Wilkos' is bright and somewhat more contemporary.note 
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wilkos:
    Wilkos: "...you think that I'm gonna say, [lighter, mock sympathetic voice] 'Oh Jessica, everything is gonna be all right. I gonna make all your problems go away.' [normal voice] Well guess what. I'm not your fairy godmother, I'm Steve, Steve Wilkos".
    • Polygraph examiner Dan Ribacoff gets in some excellent deadpan snark from time to time, like when he informed one subject who had attempted to use countermeasures to cheat the test that "his ass told the truth".
  • Dirty Coward: All of the scumbags when they are confronted by Wilkos count as this. They act tough, but cower when he gets close.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • In several episodes in which a guest accused their ex-husband/ex-boyfriend of molesting/raping their child, the lie detector test has revealed that the female accuser fabricated their claims, even coaching their child to say or manipulating them into believing that the child's father violated them, as a means to get revenge for leaving the accuser. Their dislike of the new girlfriend/wife of the child's father is also often cited as a factor. Wilkos often chews out the mother in these situations, noting that not only is she railroading the child's father for a crime he did not commit, but is effectively abusing the child by using them to help her exact revenge by making such claims.
    • In a 2014 episode, Wilkos told the brother of a guest to "get off [his] stage," not for having been uncovered for molesting the child that she's accused her ex-husband of harming,note  but simply "for wasting [Wilkos'] time" by not being able to provide a valid explanation to back up his sister's claims. The man hung around backstage for several minutes afterward, and was kicked out of the Stamford Media Center studios entirely once Wilkos saw him on one of the studio monitors. This is quite possibly the only instance to date in which a guest was ejected for reasons other than having failed lie detector exam questions pertaining to the discussed crime(s) with or without acknowledging guilt or for admissions of abuse/neglect without remorse.
  • Do Wrong, Right: In the October 2016 episode "You Caught an S.T.D., Just Confess," a guest named Sean makes a half-hearted chair "toss" after the lie detector test results conducted on his girlfriend Nicole, who accused him of giving her gonorrhea by cheating on her with other women, did not tell the truth about not having sexual contact/intercourse with women during their relationship.note  Sean simply pushes the chair over, which Wilkos ridicules him for, saying that his show probably wouldn't have lasted long if his chair throws were as unintimidating as Sean's. This leads Sean to return from backstage to weakly defend the toss.
  • Domestic Abuser: Many guests deal with abusive lovers and/or bad parents.
  • Don't Celebrate Just Yet:
    • Some guests will celebrate or say to their accuser(s) something to the effect of "I told you so" when they pass the first question(s) of their lie detector test, only to fail key questions asked later on when the test was administered. Wilkos will sometimes call out the accused on the selectiveness of their reaction if the guest disagrees with the results of a particular question after they are read, but is receptive to the questions they passed.
    • Even after they pass all the questions asked, Wilkos will occasionally point out to the accused that they are still a horrible person due their actions unrelated to the test. He'll even, on occasion, rip up the paper with the LDT results and say, "Who gives a damn?"
    • Think you're safe just because your polygraph results are "inconclusive?" Dan has other tests he can use to see if you're lying. Not to mention, conclusive LDT results given to other guests can help to expose you as a liar (for example, if it's revealed that another guest told the truth about seeing you molest your niece).
  • Downer Ending:
    • Occurs when a guest accused on rape, molestation or sexual assault against another guest or their children is revealed to have committed the act, leading to Heroic BSoD moments with family members or friends of the accused appearing on-stage. The only consolation is that the perpetrators are tried and sentenced for their crimes after appearing on the show, preventing someone else from becoming their next victim – not to mention Wilkos ripping the accused a new one when they do fail the test.
    • This happens when both a man and a woman, or a man and a teen/adult guest who brought said person to the show to find out if they are related, are hoping that the man is the father and the DNA test proves that he isn't.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Wilkos is this, and it's these instances that easily remind one that he was a Marine. Quite often The Reason You Suck Speeches are dished out two inches from the accused's face. The worst ejections will be punctuated by Wilkos hurling a chair directly behind them once they have turned the corner.
  • Foregone Conclusion:
    • In almost every instance, if Wilkos reveals the results of each question on the lie detector test individually, the guest will have passed only a few or just one of the questions on the test and failed the rest. For instance, suppose Bob and Alice accused Tom of molesting their daughter, and the test questions asked if Tom abused the child and/or if he was grooming her for future abuse.note  If you don't hear Wilkos read all of the questions at once before stating that "the results came out all the same, that you...," you can immediately conclude, that if Tom passed on the questions pertaining to the child's abuse, he likely failed on the grooming question. Especially if Wilkos asks Tom, "The results are pretty accurate, right?", after reading the results of the questions Tom passed.
    • If Wilkos reads the lie detector results that asked if the cheater has had sexual intercourse or sexual contactnote  outside of the relationship, more likely than not, they flunked the test. Many times, if they're asked one or more questions inquiring whether they had sexual contact/intercourse with two or more partners during their relationship with their current significant other and deny doing so, they failed those questions as well.
  • Gentle Giant: Wilkos has a Hair-Trigger Temper when he deals with what he has to on the show, as he did when he was working security or guest hosting on Springer. However, he means well and tries his best to help those that deserve it or want to seek help to turn their life around. He can tower over most of the bad guys on either show.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: Unless he's really, really angry, Wilkos usually substitutes "fuck" (as an intensifier) for "hell" or "heck".
  • Heroic BSoD: Because of the seriousness of the topics, it's more likely to happen here than on Springer. Examples in which guests suffer from this include:
    1. The parent(s) of a guest who had no idea their child was being abused or had strong suspicion that the other parent, a family member or friend abused their child finds out that one of the parties was not truthful when the person(s) denied physically or sexually abusing them. This is usually accompanied by the parent running backstage in hysterics or attempting to physically attack the accused.
    2. An adult guest who suspected that they were sexually assaulted by a friend or family member finds out that person did violate them. The reaction is same as above.
    3. A husband/boyfriend or girlfriend/wife who weren't aware or had accused their partner of cheating on them, when a lie detector test determines that their partner has been unfaithful. It is amplified when the partner is revealed to have had sexual relations with more than one man/woman during their relationship.
    4. The parents of a child find out their kid is not biologically that of the male partner due to the mother's affair.
    5. The lie detector exonerates the accused, but also either finds the accuser guilty of what they were trying to pin on the other or that they fabricated the accusations for revenge because of a personal slight by or their dislike of the defendant. This occurs both in episodes dealing with accusations of infidelity and, somewhat more commonly, abuse.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Even Wilkos himself is guilty of being one in a few episodes. For example, in this clip, a man accused of neglecting visits to see his child due to doubts over whether he was the father is busy hamming it up onstage, when his wife charges onto the set, rugby tackles him to the ground and starts brutally beating him. While the man is trying to defend himself and push his wife off, the security guards come in and start manhandling him. Wilkos then accuses the man of being violent and demands that he 'let her go', when he quite clearly saw the woman launch an unprovoked assault on her husband. The man asks sarcastically "Who's acting violent?", only to get manhandled again and eventually dragged off stage, despite the fact that he didn't do anything to start the confrontation and was simply trying to protect himself.
    • Some guests who accuse others of infidelity end up being guilty of having done so themselves. Depending on the situation, either the accused tends to pass the lie detector test, while the accuser doesn't or both partners end up failing it.
    • Certain guests who have accused family members or a friend appearing with them on the show of physically or sexually abusing the child of the parent(s) in question have been revealed to have abused the child themselves. Most often, this occurs when all parties accuse each other of committing the crime, and a parent/friend/relative has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
    • Episodes dealing with controlling mates, and sometimes, cheating accusations will often have guests talk about how they love their significant others despite the fact that they cheat on or abuse them. Wilkos usually calls them out on this, recognizing that their behavior contradicts their claims and that the relationship is, in fact, highly dysfunctional.
    • Despite all of his own Precision F-Strikes, Wilkos will often scold guests for cursing.
    • Wilkos faced DUI charges in February 2018 after it was revealed that he'd been under the influence of alcohol in a one-car rollover collision a month earlier which sent him to the hospital and put the taping of his show on hiatus. Given that not only did he drive drunk but also afterward claimed he'd crashed because he was distracted while reaching for his glasses, acts he likely would have lambasted one of his guests for committing, this seems a particularly egregious level of hypocrisy. Even worse, in the moments before the crash, Wilkos was reported by other drivers to be forcing cars to run off the road to avoid him, an act of aggressive driving that he'd probably chew guests out for doing as well. It hasn't seemed to hurt his popularity, however.
  • Karma Houdini: In a sense, this applies in cases like that of the aforementioned Monique, who was indicated by lie detector results to have been directly responsible for the death of her toddler daughter. She had previously pleaded guilty to charges involving the death and served prison time, but got only 16 months; under double jeopardy laws, she cannot be retried. Wilkos angrily pointed out that she should be serving decades in prison, not months.
    • In a sense, it's also averted, as thanks to her appearance on the show, Monique was exposed as a liar and a probable murderer in front of a nationwide television audience, which will likely follow her for the rest of her life. She told Wilkos she'd already been beaten up several times.
  • Large Ham: Wilkos is a highly expressive man and especially when he's confronting an antagonistic guest.
  • Lie Detector: Which are always deemed highly accurate, even if the accusations levied are implausible. Episodes in which guests come on to clear up accusations of infidelity often ask those being administered the test how many times a guest has cheated and with how many partners. Because of the explicit nature of the questions, in episodes dealing with accusations of sexual abuse, Wilkos is either given watered down versions of specific questions asked to the recipient pertaining to the acts the guest has been accused of committing/may have committed or the moderately explicit portions that are read to the guests and studio audience are censored on-air to comply with FCC broadcast standards.
  • Living Lie Detector: Wilkos is very good at detecting bullshit from his guests and calling them out on it. He insists he doesn't know the outcome of a lie detector test until he reads it, but his gut instincts about a case usually turn out to be right. As such, Wilkos becomes furious on the rare occasions his instincts are wrong and someone he believed was innocent turns out to have failed a lie detector test.
  • Mama Bear:
    • They usually show up in episodes about the death, abuse or sexual assault of a minor. Wilkos regularly commends them, or even a relative/friend, for seeking justice for the child, and often reminds them to involve the police to file criminal charges against the perpetrator rather than take matters into their own hands through violent actions.
    • During a segment where a mother finds out her husband had molested and set up her daughter to be killed, it took three men, including Wilkos, to hold her back from attacking him and she still managed to get her hands on him, practically holding both the abuser and the three security guards against the floor until Wilkos had to wrench her away.
    • Sometimes the mother of an accused guest will try to act as Mama Bear to protect her child from Steve's wrath. One example is 2016's "Could a Mother Murder Her Own Child?", in which a young woman named Monique took (and failed) a lie detector test for involvement in her two-year-old daughter's death. Even after the lie detector results were revealed, Monique's mom refused to believe them and continued to stand by her daughter, yelling back at Steve, who called her "[expletive bleeped] delusional."
  • Never My Fault:
    • Almost everybody that appears to clear their name of criminal accusations or infidelity denies fault. Even when their guilt is uncovered and Wilkos begins ripping them to shreds, most of the guests revealed to have committed the specified crime(s) or of cheating will continue to deny that they did anything wrong. Sometimes, the defendants were Wrongly Accused either because the other person lied on them or had genuine suspicions of the defendant's guilt that were proven false by the lie detector exam; some instances in which this was the case have had the exonerated guests express gratitude to Wilkos and the show for being able to vindicate themselves.
    • In the "Devil Mom" interview, she doesn't believe it's her own fault that she was caught. She believes it's the fault of the undercover police officer who set up a sting operation for her. She constantly refers to him as a "homewrecker" for taking her out of her children's lives. Naturally, Wilkos does not take this well.
  • Offing the Offspring: Among the most horrifying stories are those involving a parent accused of murdering their child. It more often than not turns out to be a case of parental neglect without premeditation. On the other hand, there are guests like Monique, who had served 16 months in prison for her two-year-old daughter's death, though she claimed she was innocent, and came to the show to clear her name. She failed her lie detector test, suggesting that she either did kill her daughter or was involved in some other way.
  • Once an Episode:
    • Wilkos insisting that a guest accused of a heinous crime do the show standing up.
    • The audience bursting into laughter at inopportune times. Usually, they'll laugh like hyenas after the results are read, no matter how horrifying or disgusting they are.
    • Daniel Ribacoff, of International Investigative Group, the provider of the show's polygraph exams, appearing onstage to explain the results of his lie detector methods. Sometimes, he appears on cue; other times he appears to reassure concerned and innocent guests.
    • Wilkos talking about or reminding guests that he served as a Marine and later, a police officer.
    • "GET OFF MY STAGE!" or some variant of that phrase.
    • Wilkos reminding the parents of an abused child, etc. not to take the law into their own hands by "doing something stupid" (i.e. attacking the abuser), as such an action would likely take them away from their own children.
  • Papa Wolf: The male guests who appear on the show to found out if their children have been neglected and/or abused.
  • Parental Incest: Besides the episodes dealing with accusations of sexual abuse and molestation, one instance that stands out is featured in a May 2011 episode titled "Father and Daughter Having Sex". In the episode, an 18-year-old woman named Kelly, who took a lie detector test to confirm the story was true before taping the show, revealed that she, since age 16, had been engaged in a sexual relationship with her father, Morgan, whom she first met at age 7. Adding to the already disturbing nature of the story, Kelly revealed that she wanted to have a baby with Morgan, although she stated that he wanted to use a sperm donor or surrogate, whom also made out with her when he appeared onstage. Although Morgan admitted he felt weird about the relationship at first, he also admitted that he became comfortable with the situation as time went on. Wilkos notes that this is the most disturbing story he's had to tackle since the show debuted.
  • Precision F-Strike: Sometimes added to a "Get off my stage!" moment. It's rare, but Wilkos sometimes even drops these in while reading lie detector results, as in "This f***ing scumbag failed."
  • Really Gets Around: Several of the guests revealed to have cheated on their significant other have had their lie detector test results uncover that they have had sexual contact or intercourse with two or more partners.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Wilkos loves to give these to guests who truly deserve them.
  • The Reveal: Another staple of the show. Examples include:
    • If a guest accused of abuse or murder committed any or all of the crimes they are accused of or set up the crime to happen.
    • If a guest accused of being unfaithful to their mate cheated.
    • Whether or not a male guest is the father of a child. Said guest's reaction to the revelation depends on the situation; usually – if they accuse the child's mother of cheating or if the (teen or adult) child believes the male guest may be their long-lost dad – the guest merely wants to know if they are the father or if the child was conceived by another man. Paternity inquiries featured on the show seldom involve disputes in which the male guest adamantly denies being the father.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: George, a heavyset guy with a hipster-ish beard, in the episode "Child Abuse: No One Believes Your Story," after failing his lie-detector tests for shaking and physically abusing his nine-month-old son. His sobs were so high-pitched one could assume, if listening to the audio of the show without watching the video, that it was either of the two women on stage with him (his current wife and his ex, whose son was the one who was abused) crying.
  • Shout-Out: One promo for the series featured Wilkos reciting a famous quote by 19th-century abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison: "I am in earnest. ... I will not retreat a single inch. And I WILL BE HEARD."
  • Sound-Effect Bleep: The show is randomly sprinkled with bleeps caused by guests or audience members cursing, Wilkos or a guest describing a sexually explicit situation, or the show having to redact a name to protect the identity of a victim described in a story pertaining to abuse. Often, the near-constant swearing among the audience members can lead to moments where information is inadvertently censored out with the swearing. This sometimes occurs even during brief moments when everyone is basically silent. In the cheating episodes, this sometimes falls under Censored for Comedy, if a guest makes a raucous accusation found amusing by the audience or even Wilkos that can't be heard on-air.
  • Talk Show with Fists:
    • Downplayed for justified reasons. While the fights on Jerry Springer were broken up to prevent them from becoming too violent, Wilkos discourages guests from getting into altercations altogether, even if knocking around the accused person that fails a lie detector test for abuse is an understandable visceral reaction; hence why the show's security guards usually arrive onstage once the confrontation portion of a given segment commences, ready to restrain/pull back guests to stop or break up fights. In several episodes dealing with child sexual/physical abuse, Wilkos has reminded the parent(s) whose family member or friend failed key or all questions on the polygraph test that getting vigilante justice on the perpetrator will only get them in legal trouble for assaulting the perp, leaving the child without someone there to defend them, and that they should focus their efforts on having that person prosecuted for their crimes.
    • There have been a few instances in which guests have attempted to use the chairs onstage as weapons against other guests, only to be immediately stopped by Wilkos and his security team. One such example occurred in the April 2016 episode mentioned under Actually Pretty Funny, in which pregnant guest Kayla attempted to smash her chair onto her boyfriend, Joe, with Wilkos reacting with a Big NO and one of the guards rushing the stage to inform her that the stress incurred by lifting the chair would be unhealthy for her unborn child, at which point Kayla drops her chair.
    • One subversion occurred in a February 2013 episode, in which one of the security guards attempted to restrain a guest named Thomasina from fighting her daughter, Destiny, after the polygraph revealed the latter had lied about not having an affair with her mother's now-deceased boyfriend and poisoning her. Wilkos gets hit in the head – though is, luckily, uninjured – by a metal bowl placed on the set window, which she presumably tried to aim at Destiny. About a minute later, after Thomasina apologized for the accidental hit, Wilkos, without missing a beat, then quips about the irony of the situation, given his previous gig:
      Wilkos: Fourteen years on Jerry Springer, and I never got hit by anything.
  • The Tell:
    • In episodes dealing with accusations of child abuse, if both accusing parties point the finger at one another for physically and/or sexually abusing the child of the parents, the less likely that the party whose results are read second is innocent. This is sometimes subverted, as the lie detector has sometimes determined that none of the guests who have accused each other of child abuse have committed the crime; in such cases, Wilkos advises the parents to seek further investigation into who did hurt their child.
    • In episodes dealing with accusations of sexual abuse against the children of one of the guests or an adult, if the lie detector reveals the accused party to be innocent of the accuser's claims and said accuser is asked whether they fabricated the story, the accuser is revealed to have lied about 70% of the time. This often occurs in situations in which the exonerated accused guest had accused the other person of making up the abuse claims earlier in the episode as a means to get back at their ex for leaving them.
    • In episodes dealing with cheating accusations, if the accused partner says "After today, he/she has got to [stop accusing me]", there's a high chance that one of them is cheating.
    • If a home DNA/police lie detector test is mentioned, and subsequently disregarded by one of the guests for the DNA or polygraph tests conducted for the show by either the DNA Diagnostics Center or Dan Ribacoff, the tests the guest took before their appearance is almost always proven right and corroborates with the results of the tests conducted by the show before the episode taping.
    • If Wilkos gives a guest one last chance to tell the truth onstage before he reads the results of a lie detector test, the guests will usually continue to deny their misdeeds. Rarely, does the guest confess while on the show, only to either fail most or all of the questions or confess their actions on certain questions asked during the test.
    • If a guest is determined to be untestable before a lie detector test is conducted because they took a controlled substance when they were asked not to or refuses to answer certain questions while the test is being administered, they will almost always give away that whatever is being asked is true.
  • This Is My Chair: Wilkos will allow you to sit down on his chairs while you're on the show, just as long as you're not being accused of a heinous crime.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Some of the clips shown during the teasers aired at the start of the show of before and after certain commercial breaks often spoil the outcome if the teaser shows the guests' reaction to the results without actually showing the viewer. This is particularly egregious in episodes focusing on accusations of physical abuse/sexual abuse/murder, where the accusers are seen either crying/running backstage or attempting to attack the accused perpetrator of the crime. However, some episodes subvert this during the pre- and post-break teasers, when the clip ends before Wilkos actually reads the result of one of the questions featured on the guest's test.
  • Tranquil Fury: When Wilkos yells at you during the first instance, he's mad. When he starts off against a guy with a smile on his face, pray to every god of every religion.
  • The Un-Favourite: An episode from Season 7 featured a guest who was accused by his sister of molesting her toddler son. Even before the results of his lie detector are revealed, the man insists that his sister made up the accusation because of he's constantly being treated as the family scapegoat. Invariably, he is proven right as he passed his test, but his sister failed her test in relation to questions that she fabricated the claims, and continues to lament the mistreatment by his family that resulted in him being misblamed for a crime that did not occur.
  • The Unfair Sex:
    • Wilkos used to be disturbingly biased towards women during the earlier seasons of his show. In one episode, a woman had taught her 2-year-old how to masturbate, then claimed her husband molested the child. Despite the fact that the husband's offenses paled in comparison, where he gave excuses for not being able to visit home often, Wilkos still gave him a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and threw him off the stage. These instances have since became few and far between with his wife now at the helm.
    • To some extent, Wilkos does treat female guests who are abusive to their mates less harshly than men who treat their girlfriends/wives similarly. Whereas he will sometimes give a "The Reason You Suck" Speech or throw abusive boyfriends/husbands off the stage, when the abusive mate is a woman or both partners are abusing each other, he merely opines to the guest(s) why they are even together and that neither partner in a relationship should abuse one another, regardless to whom the behavior is being directed towards.
    • In another instance, a woman hits a man after finding out he cheated on her. Wilkos tells the man that he shouldn't be surprised by her reaction, even though Wilkos would have had escorted the man out in handcuffs if the genders were reversed.
    • In the first segment of the episode "Did You Lie About Being Raped?", a woman admits that she lied to her boyfriend about getting assaulted. She also admits that she filed a false police report. She claims she did this because he kept accusing her of being a cheater and was calling her a whore. Both took a lie detector test to determine if they had cheated. Both passed, which caused the studio audience to cheer for them. Afterwards, Wilkos calls the girlfriend out for needlessly wasting her local law enforcement's time. He then calls out the boyfriend, saying that that he is just as responsible as she is because of his verbal abuse, even though filing a false report is a crime and being a distrustful boyfriend is not.
    • In the first segment of one episode, a man went on the show to find out if his girlfriend had cheated on him. Specifically, he wanted to know whether or not she cheated on him with his friends and/or family members and if she was prostituting. Despite telling Wilkos several times that he wanted to know the full results of her test, Wilkos only revealed the questions that she passed. Wilkos didn't reveal if she passed or failed the other questions and had the man and woman leave the stage together.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Much of Wilkos's lie detector tests and door choosing often end this way with the bad party breaking down.
  • Wants a Prize for Basic Decency: Some of the more egregiously bad parents will, despite their multiple misdeeds, demand credit for the one or two things they did right. Wilkos doesn't buy it.
    • Exaggerated in the "Devil Mom" episode. She wanted all the charges on her for forwarding child pornography and attempting to use her own daughter for sexual images to be dropped because she thought about turning around and not taking her daughter to the obviously sexual photo shoot.
    • This backfired on a guest named Sabrina in the episode "My Daughter Is a Worthless Mother":
      Wilkos: You don't raise your kids, you had them beg for money, you use drugs with them in the house, you abused your children physically, you let them be sexually abused... uh, tell me something you did good for your kids.
      Sabrina: [as audience chants "STEEEEEEVE"] Something I did good for my kids? I kept a roof over their head!
      Wilkos: You kept a roof over their heads... with a molester under it! [audience chants "STEEEEEEVE" again]
  • Wham Line: Many a time has Wilkos been floored by an allegation or accusation from a guest, and equally vice versa, but a particularly powerful one comes from the mouth of a child, no less. In "Mommy, Go to Jail for Me", a very brave young girl called Makayla delivers an incredibly calm, yet direct line to her absentee mother when the latter takes the stage:
    Makayla's mother: "H-hey baby..."
    Makayla: "Don't call me that."
  • What Does She See in Him?: Several episodes feature couples whose relationships are incredibly dysfunctional, because of their differing personalities or because one or both mates abuse one another, often leading Wilkos to ask this question to the guests. One such example is in the 2016 episode "You Can Live Without Him," which has its first story dealing with a 21-year-old couple named Autumn and Jordan, the former of whom accuses her fiancée of cheating on her with other women after catching him messaging other females on Facebook. The disparity of their temperaments is made obvious when the lie detector reveals that he did cheat, to the point where you actually feel sorry for Jordan. Autumn exhibits the emotional maturity of a teenager in how she deals with the revelation, recoiling into a ball of tears, and even threatens to seek sole custody of their daughter if he breaks up with her; it doesn't help that, according to Jordan, Autumn repeatedly shuts down whenever he tries to tell her that he's not happy in the relationship. Jordan comes off as more mature, explaining to her that he's not happy, even moreso when you find out he's enlisted in the Air Force to make something of himself and is adamant about staying in his daughter's life (citing his own father abandoning him as a child as a motivator). Despite the fact that they're obviously shouldn't be together, it's revealed in a voicemail sent a week after the episode was taped that, after discussing matters, they decide to stay together (with Autumn and their daughter moving with him on-base when he begins his tour of duty).
    • A particularly disturbing example was in the 2019 episode "DNA: Was She Really Raped?", in which a young woman named Sarah brought her boyfriend Rick on the show to prove to him that she was telling the truth about being raped and hadn't made up the story as a cover for infidelity. Theirs was a tempestuous relationship involving physical abuse on both sides. Sarah's lie-detector test proved she had been telling the truth, and instead of showing rage or anger that his girlfriend had indeed been raped, Rick acted relieved that Sarah hadn't cheated on him. Although both Sarah and Rick expressed desire to make the relationship work, Wilkos seized upon Rick's reaction to the LDT results to remind both that some relationships are toxic and some people shouldn't be together.
  • Would Hurt a Child: A large proportion of episodes deal with adults that have been accused of various disturbing acts against children, including molestation/rape, physical abuse, neglect, involvement in the production and/or distribution of child pornography, child prostitution, the consumption or sale of alcohol or other controlled substances, and murder. While most of the people accused of these crimes vehemently deny their actions before being exposed by the show's lie detector tests, there have been a few episodes in which guests have confessed to their crimes, either independent/in lieu of or during a lie detector exam.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Guests whose response to failing a lie detector test is, "This is just a talk show and you have to get ratings," implying that the LDT results are faked and probably in denial about just how screwed they may be. Wilkos then reminds them of the accuracy of Dan's tests and adds, "Yes, this is a talk show and we do want to get ratings. But we also get justice."
  • Your Cheating Heart: Many episodes not focusing strictly on accusations of domestic, sexual or child abuse involve cheating. These episodes sometimes feature a Daddy DNA Test if a child is involved, unless the female partner is not the one being accused of cheating.

Truth. Justice. Steve.

Alternative Title(s): Steve Wilkos

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