It was announced this week that the Jerry Springer Show has been discontinued. Jerry will have to chant his name to himself on a beach somewhere. Maybe he’ll walk up to strangers with a Mr. Microphone and ask them to introduce his “final thoughts.” And they will really be his last words. Who knows what his plans will be. The former mayor will have to survive on residuals–which in the context of the Springer Show, sounds somehow like a dirty word.
Frankly, I didn’t know it was still on the air, nor can I figure out what differentiates a “new” episode from an old one. People who have made themselves into living cartoons enter the stage to bask in audience ridicule in return for a chance to be known in their neighborhoods as “the one who was on Springer” (as opposed to the one who should be on Springer). People admit things they shouldn’t, try to fight each other, and get pulled away before they do harm by men in black. Jerry pretends to be disappointed by their physical violence, yet it is he who has rung the bell to start the round.
Entertainment Weekly reports that Jerry has been on the air for 27 seasons, recording nearly 4000 shows , and that he is 74 years old. My guess is that Jerry has a hard time even pretending to be shocked anymore. When he first created his new drug of the airwaves, his audience could be titillated by people in drag, cousins having affairs, perhaps a mental defective who thought they were the reincarnation of Elvis. (That was my cousin.) Over the years, his audience demanded a stronger dose to get the same high. So, he got the audience more involved. Women in the audience flashed for beads. Others, mostly those without breasts, worked up great insults they could hurl at the guests.
Affairs were no longer good enough. Affairs with siblings or parents were better. Bring in some side-show abnormalities and it is better still. “Our next guest claims to be married to his dog, yet lusts for his sister’s overweight ferret.” But nothing brings the kids away from their conversations and into a circle on the playground like a good fight. So the show became more violent–both physically and verbally. It became a mosh pit talk show with more words erased (he didn’t bleep) than spoken. Sentences constructed of almost entirely swear words became the norm. If you walked by the TV without knowing what was on, you might suspect the connection was bad. I’m not complaining, though. I wasn’t all that interested in whatever the sword-swallowing polygamist had to say.
Why has it gone away? Two reasons. First, the drug of the show could get no stronger. It teetered as close as it could to execution as entertainment. Secondly, the drug became legalized and freely available. One needn’t watch a particular show to see people engaged in unusual or outrageous behavior. Quick violent reactions to minor disagreements have become commonplace. A trip to the convenience store provides the daily fix for people yelling obscenities at each other. Twitter has brought the vile, pop-culture-referenced put-down to the masses. I don’t have to be in Jerry’s audience to say something mean to someone I don’t know, yet don’t like. There are too many social media options available for that now. So, as the Internet has killed shopping malls and high-end pornography producers, it, and its effect on contemporary culture, has eliminated our need for Jerry. His show is not gone; it is just so omnipresent it can no longer be identified with a particular person or medium. Jerry is with us forever. Jerry, Jerry, Jerry.
Until next time, take care of yourself. And each other.