"Springer’, "Wilkos" likely heading to Connecticut

I know this story is over a week old, but it is significant.

Has Chicago’s media and political freak shows become too much for even the king of dysfunctional TV, Jerry Springer?

According to news that became public a week and a half ago, NBC Universal – the syndicator behind raunchy talkers Maury, Jerry Springer, and The Steve Wilkos Show, plan to move the three talk shows to a television production facility in Stamford, CT.

Stamford is home to the World Wrestling Federation, but (surprisingly) has no plan to be involved in the production of all three shows.

The three NBC Universal shows are apparently taking advantage of tax credits being offered to the shows by Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell.

Currently, Springer and Wilkos tape at the NBC Tower here in Chicago while Maury tapes at Grand Ballroom of the Hotel Pennsylvania in New York City (another talk show syndicated by NBC Universal – Martha – is not part of the deal and will continue to tape in New York.) This is the second television production to flee the Big Apple in many weeks due to the collapse of the tax credit program which was supposed to lure programs to the city. Earlier, Warner Bros. announced Fringe would move production from New York to Vancouver if the freshman drama is renewed next year.

As you recall, Jerry Springer’s show was under intense scrutiny from Chicago’s City Council in 1998 for fights breaking out on stage and the overall raunchy tone of the show. A year earlier, WMAQ-TV (which aired Springer at the time) hired him as commentator for their 10 p.m. newscast, which forced anchors Ron Magers and Carol Marin to resign (Marin however, has since returned as an investigate reporter.)

Springer has been targeted by Rev. Michael Pflager of St. Sabina’s Church and conservative groups Parents Television Council, The American Family Association, and the Illinois Family Institute for the show’s raunchy tone and violent content. The ratings were sky high at one point, beating The Oprah Winfrey Show in early 1998. Springer pledged to clean up the show and did, but the fights returned, although more constrained (there have also been acquisitions that the violence and fights on the show are staged.)

Today, Springer resides near the bottom of the pack of syndicated talk shows, but does well enough to continue.

If the move goes through, Chicago would be left with only Warner Bros.’ Judge Mathis and Judge Jeanne Pirro and of course, The Oprah Winfrey Show as the only nationally syndicated programs taped and/or filmed here.

This isn’t the first time a talk show left the Windy City. In 1985, Phil Donahue moved his talk show from Chicago to New York to tape at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

For the record, the last time a nationally syndicated talk show was taped regularly in Connecticut was Sally Jessy Raphael’s talk show, which was produced at the studios of ABC affiliate WTNH-TV in New Haven (in the Hartford DMA) from 1986-89, when afterward she moved production of her show to New York. Before moving to New Haven, Raphael taped her show at NBC affiliate KSDK-TV in St. Louis.

Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael, and Jerry Springer were all developed and syndicated by Multimedia Entertainment, which was sold to Universal in 1997.

Thought: While yours truly is more than happy to see Springer’s show leave Chicago, what I’m not happy about is the loss of jobs resulting from the move of two programs moving out of town. Even worse, special interest groups and longtime critics of the show – from Rev. Michael Pflager on the left to David Edward Smith of the Illinois Family Institute on the right – will claim victory for forcing Springer out of town, when in reality, they haven’t done anything but shout and scream and run their mouths.

Don’t forget – when Springer is gone, Chicago politicians – who are about as dysfunctional as the show’s guests – and had the audacity to question him over his program’s antics when these alderjerks engaged in this same type of behavior during the racially divisive Council Wars in the 1980’s – are still here. In fact, the Council still behaves this way today.

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