During one of Jerry Springer’s frequent stops back in the Chicago area — where he still maintains a condo in Evanston — the veteran TV personality checked in to chat about the vibrancy of his long-running daily talk show, his other TV projects and his take on the current state of politics, as seen from his perspective as the former mayor of Cincinnati.
As for “The Jerry Springer Show,” the man himself claimed gratitude “that we’re still doing well in our 24th year on the air. That it’s lasted that long is ridiculous,” said Springer. “But it keeps getting an audience, and it’s fun for me to do, so I guess I should keep doing it.”
As the soft-spoken Springer uttered those words, I could almost hear his fans shouting — much louder — “Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!”
Asked his interpretation of why the always raucous and outrageous show has continued to survive, Springer initially claimed “I have no idea. … My first contract was for just six weeks, so who knew what that would turn into! It just went crazy and kept building an audience.”
Yet upon a bit of reflection, and some nudging from me, Springer did admit “there are likely two explanations for why we’re still around. First of all, the show has its own niche. When you look at everything out there, there really is no other show quite like it. We kind of own that brand of outrageousness, if I can put it that way.
“Also, it’s a show that’s aimed at young people in high school or college age. If you have a show that is aimed at that age group, you can last forever because there are suddenly new people to discover you and watch you coming up all the time.”
From Springer’s point of view, shows that skew older, “say at people who are 30 years old or so — by the time they are 32 or 33, they are bored with the show and feel they’ve seen everything already.
“Tastes don’t change much at that point, but between 12 and 16, your tastes change a great deal. So that’s a factor that I think has helped us.”
Beyond those factors, Springer also believes that the current TV world is merely a technological change from how people have interacted over the centuries.
“We are social beings, and humans are always fascinated by how people react to situations — and that’s always been the case, even 3,000 years ago. Back then people would gather in the marketplace or the town square and talk about what was going on in their neighborhood. Now it’s done via television or the Internet.”
In addition to “The Jerry Springer Show,” Springer also enjoys hosting his “Baggage” dating show — something, he said, “I wish I had thought of!”
As he sees it, the revelation of the contestants’ personal “baggage” — potential date-killers — likely leads his at-home audience to think about their own “baggage” and that of their partners.
“Everyone has baggage,” said Springer. “Now, in real life, normally we find out about our partner’s baggage about six weeks into the relationship.
“Heck, in some cases it could be six years into the relationship! But on our show, people find out about it going in.
“I know that people watching at home start thinking about those kinds of issues. I bet they start asking each other what baggage might be there they are unaware of.
“Then, if they really get angry enough, they can call my other show [‘The Jerry Springer Show’] and come on and fight about it there!”
Speaking of fighting, Springer also held forth on the current state of politics in America.
“I’m pretty much an optimist. Every generation always has a lot of people who think this is the worst of times. Certainly we have a huge number of problems, both domestically and all over the world, and yes terrorism is a constant threat today. … But despite all of that, in my lifetime we had worse times. We had a Holocaust. We had World War II and Vietnam and tremendous turmoil in the 1960s.
“Yes, there are problems in the world and horrible things are happening, but I firmly believe the world is not falling apart … If we didn’t have a 24/7 news cycle with cable news constantly blaring terrible headlines at us, I think we would sleep a lot better at night.”