DAN WOOTTON: Woke critics may still sneer, but Jerry Springer changed TV forever by allowing ordinary folk to become its biggest stars. As ringmaster, he never thought he was better than anyone taking part in his daily circus
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The snobs sneered and the critics raged, but without Jerry Springer, ordinary people would never have become the biggest stars of the entertainment industry.
Without him, there would have been no Kardashians, no Big Brother, no American idol.
Jerry, who died peacefully today at 79 after being diagnosed with cancer, quite literally revolutionised television across the world by proving mere mortals were far more interesting to watch than most of the pampered A-listers who cost millions to hire.
To the fabulous and infamous daily chant of ‘Jerry, Jerry, Jerry’, the folk who previously never got on screen were given the opportunity to fight out their mundane problems in front of a global audience, all while becoming local celebrities for five minutes.
Oprah Winfrey might have tried to convince us that we wanted to remember our spirit with mumbo jumbo Californian claptrap, but actually there were times we just really loved watching our contemporaries air their dirty laundry – and that was OK.
DAN WOOTTON: The snobs sneered and the critics raged, but without Jerry Springer (pictured), ordinary people would never have become the biggest stars of the entertainment industry. Without him, there would have been no Kardashians, no Big Brother, no American idol
DAN WOOTTON: Jerry, who died peacefully today at 79 after being diagnosed with cancer , quite literally revolutionised television across the world by proving mere mortals were far more interesting to watch than most of the pampered A-listers who cost millions to hire
Since his explosion in the late 1990s, there have been countless academics and posh commentators who claim Jerry was pretty much responsible for the downfall of western civilisation, but I believe he simply reflected a great shift in our collective mindset.
After British-born Jerry’s show became the biggest hit on US TV, it was obvious there was an audience who didn’t want to be spoken down to by the liberal elites on an almost hourly basis, pontificating on whatever issue of the day they decided should matter to us.
Indeed, it’s no coincidence that since Springer went off air in 2018, there has been a huge push by broadcast television to censor the ‘basket of deplorables’, as the likes of Hillary Clinton like to brand Trump voters in the US or Brexit supporters in Britain.
In the UK, ITV used the tragic suicide of a guest on the Jeremy Kyle Show – the closest on screen descendant to the Springer circus – to shut down the entire concept of allowing ‘the great unwashed’ on the box to discuss their daily problems.
It was just too dangerous, the new woke breed of censorious TV executives countered.
Already today I’ve watched Sky News US reporter Mark Stone attack Jerry’s show, saying: ‘Frankly, what it did was to bring together some of the most dysfunctional families in the United States…in order to see them have a fight literally on television to draw in ratings.
DAN WOOTTON (pictured) believes without Jerry Springer, there would have been no Kardashians, no Big Brother, no American idol
‘To bring deep bitter angry divisions on to the television for entertainment. That’s what the Jerry Springer Show did.’
Yup, within hours of Jerry’s death, the sneering at those so-called ‘deplorables’ who would agree to appear as guests was back.
As Jerry, himself a long-time Democrat, rightly put it before he died: ‘Believe this: The politicians and companies that seek to control what each of us may watch are a far greater danger to America and our treasured freedom than any of our guests ever were or could be.’
Jerry’s show might have been a circus, but there was an underlying sense of fun, humour and – believe it or not – kindness to what he put out on a daily basis.
His Twitter biography, with tongue firmly in cheek, described himself as the ‘ringmaster of civilization´s end’, referring to the host of punch ups, abusive confrontations and tawdry reveals delivered in a single episode of the eponymous show.
Some of the titles of the over 4,000 Jerry Springer episodes that would stay emblazoned on screen throughout the hour have become famous in their own right.
Some of my personal favourites included I’m Happy I Cut Off My Legs, Sex Worker Loses Her Teeth, You Slept with My Stripper Sister and, who could forget it, A Man Marries a Horse.
DAN WOOTTON: Some of the titles of the over 4,000 Jerry Springer episodes that would stay emblazoned on screen throughout the hour have become famous in their own right
Most crucially the self-effacing Jerry never believed he was any better than anyone taking part in his daily circus.
Sure, he was the ringmaster, but he never looked down on the participants who agreed to join the madness.
Perhaps it was because, in part, he knew the desire of these contributors to share the most shocking and dark moments of their lives had made him a very rich man.
But I believe it was something more fundamental than that.
Jerry was an equaliser who knew he didn’t have the immense wealth or fame of many of his contemporaries, but an everyman quality that became more important.
Indeed, the final sign off from his TV show just five years ago – by then a shadow of the cultural phenomenon it had once been – emphasised this point.
‘What I’ve learned over our quarter century of shows is that deep down, we are all alike,’ an emotional Jerry started.
‘Some of us just dress funny, or had a better education or had better luck in the gene pool of parents.
‘I’ll say it again, deep down we are all the same. We all want to be happy, we cry when we’re hurt, we’re angry when we’ve been mistreated and to be liked, accepted, respected and not to mention loved, is the greatest gift of all.’
Insisting he never considered himself to be any different than any guest who had decided to share their problems on his show, he concluded with his iconic sign off in the daily Jerry’s Final Thought segment: ‘I am not better, only lucky. Take care of yourself and each other.’
And that’s why I refuse to describe him as the inventor of ‘trash TV’.
So here’s my final thought on Jerry Springer: He created real TV.
Real TV that allowed you or me – or our wild schoolmates or slightly mad relatives – to have the chance to experience that elusive five minutes of stardom.
And, if millions around the world wanted to watch, why the hell did they not deserve that opportunity?
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