"Springer" going back to basics

NBC Universal’s The Jerry Springer Show is dispensing with the circus freak-like sideshow and now just featuring the freak-like show.

The rabid talk show enters its eighteenth season this fall with a return to a format which features only a single story and more emphasis on the conflicts of the guests, which defined the program in the height of its popularity in the late 1990’s. Gone are the midgets, the puppets, and the drunk reverend (I’m not making this up…)

Taping of the program resumes on August 11 at the NBC Tower.

Thought: (or should I say final thought…) It seems Jerry Springer has become a parody of itself over the last few years, becoming more and more sitcom-like with these weird characters. With a slight ratings decline this past season, it’s no surprise the producers are returning to what worked best (or worst). But one could wonder if this soon can be the final call for Springer, as ratings are stagnant and the program’s controversial content isn’t bringing in any real revenue from advertising. A report a few months ago also stated that Tribune (which carries this show and Maury in most of its markets) may be stepping away from such fare as a result.

Much like other programs with controversial material in the past, like The Morton Downey Jr. Show (which was syndicated by MCA TV – the predecessor to Springer’s current syndicator NBC Universal), the shows are stacked with direct response ads – 1-900-date commercials, “Women Gone Wild” videos, motor chairs, “K-tel” like-special offers, etc. Not exactly prime-time, blue-chip type of advertising. A Don Ohlmeyer- syndicated show hosted by Mike Conners dealing with notorious crimes was canceled in 1989 after a few months because of a lack of relevant advertising.

CBS’ Swingtown is also suffering from this kind of fate. Recently, a direct-response ad ran during the show featuring a song-collection set.

Ironically, Springer escaped the wrath of the Parents Television Council and American Family Association after the Janet Jackson Super Bowl debacle in 2004, though both organizations have targeted Springer before then.

Interestingly enough, Springer’s dysfunctional show has been eclipsed by the real-life political dysfunction you can see every day and night on the cable news networks… And quite honestly, that’s more offensive.

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