One of the shining lights in the cosmic pantheon of mid-afternoon trash TV has suddenly found itself in danger of extinction, as THR reports that Jerry Springer might be shutting down after 27 years on the air. The seemingly endless syndicated sideshow—hosted with detached irony by the country musician, actor, and former Cincinnati mayor—recently lost its distribution deal with NBC Universal, imperiling its future production. The CW quickly snapped up the rights to a season of repeats, but there’s no word on if, or when, the series might resume production.
But while nostalgia might briefly draw us to wax rhapsodic on a cultural phenomenon so overwhelming, it even got the “Weird Al” treatment once, the sheer cultural shittiness of Jerry Springer can, perhaps, be best eulogized by the “Format” section of its own Wikipedia page. For instance, there’s this gem: “Often guests will be given a cup of water after fighting, ostensibly to ‘cool off,’ but inevitably, the guests toss the water at each other, thus resuming the altercation”. Or “Later seasons would have males “mooning” the crowd (exposing their backside to the audience), with the intent of getting ‘Jerry Beads’”. Or the not-at-all troubling: “Some of the brawls have even been between a man and a woman, especially when the woman is revealed to be transgender and the man did not realize it.”
Is it any wonder, then, that the Springer formula—full of violence and fakery, patched over by a thin veneer of ironic superiority—would eventually give way to more aspirational chat shows like your Dr. Phils or your Rachael Rays? Not that the latter is necessarily any better—there was an addictive honesty about the ugliness of human nature to Springer that helped fuel its ’90s supremacy—but at least they leave you feeling like a more chipper sort of scumbag by the time you realize your day is wasted and the sun’s gone down.