Jerry Springer, Iconic Daytime Talk Show Host, Dies at 79
The world of daytime talk was dominated in the 1990s and 2000s by one name: Jerry Springer, whose rowdy, chaotic, shocking show became a huge hit and one of the most-watched series of its kind.
Springer ended his talk show in 2018 after a long run on the air, but he continued working in television on other series. Sadly, though, Springer has passed away; TMZ reports that, per its sources, Springer was battling pancreatic cancer for the past few months. “This week,” they wrote “he took a turn for the worse.” Springer reportedly died on Thursday morning at his home in Chicago. He was 79 years old.
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Springer was an unlikely TV star. He was a lawyer by trade and later became the mayor of Cincinnati in the 1970s. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress and for the governorship of Ohio as well. After getting work as a political reporter on local television in Ohio, he became an anchor on the Cincinnati NBC station, WLWT.
In the early 1990s, Springer got his own daytime talk show emanating out of WLWT’s Cincinnati studios. Initially, Jerry Springer was much more news and politics-focused, but a few years later, NBC acquired the series and it gradually became more provocative, emphasizing edgier topics and more outlandish guests. Soon the physical altercations between the guests began to become a signature of the show, attracting even more controversy and attention. (There was much debate at the time whether these fights were authentic or staged for the cameras.)
The show became so popular that VHS tapes and DVDs were sold in stores featuring moments that were “Too Hot For TV.” The compilations became huge best-sellers. Even if you never watched Jerry Springer, the commercials for these videos were ubiquitous; anyone who owned a TV in the late ’90s will probably recognize this clip.
The show peaked in its popularity in the late 1990s, but it continued on until 2018. All told, there were almost 5,000 episodes of Jerry Springer produced over 27 seasons, and the series eventually spawned a spinoff, The Steve Wilkos Show, featuring Springer’s head of security, who had begun to get significant camera time on Jerry Springer because he was breaking up so many fights. Wilkos’ show is still on the air after more than 15 years. After the end of Jerry Springer, Springer became a judge on America’s Got Talent and then hosted his own judge show, Judge Jerry, for three seasons.
While Springer’s show was not exactly great art, it was certainly a great success on television in its day. It spawned imitators, sparked conversations, and garnered huge ratings, even drawing more viewers than The Oprah Winfrey Show at its height of popularity. It inarguably changed the course of TV history, although whether that was a good or a bad thing may be in the eye of the beholder.