Jerry Springer: TV presenter who defined the era, dies at 79

Jerry Springer: TV presenter who defined the era, dies at 79
  • Written by Stephen Macintosh
  • Entertainment reporter

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Newsnight chat show host Jerry Springer tells Jeremy Paxman that chat shows don’t exploit the poor

Jerry Springer, the TV presenter known for his risqué talk shows, has died at the age of 79.

The Jerry Springer Show, which ran for nearly three decades from 1991, brought fights, flying chairs, and the fringes of American society to a global audience.

Publicists confirmed to BBC News that Springer died peacefully on Thursday at his home in Chicago.

Springer’s friend and family spokesperson, Jane Galvin, called him “irreplaceable”.

“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he tried, whether it was politics, broadcasting or just joking with people on the street who wanted a picture or a word,” he said.

“He is irreplaceable and his loss hurts terribly, but the memories of his mind, heart and sense of humor will live on.”

Springer’s talk show became an icon of humble television over its nearly 5,000 episodes with its messy confrontation, exposés of insults, and infidelity.

“I love working with him on AGT [America’s Got Talent]I like hanging out with him (we lived in the same hotel for two years), I like arguing with him (he liked his politics), I like everything about him.”

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Springer recently appeared on the US version of The Masked Singer as Beetle

Springer was born at Highgate tube station in London in 1944 during the Second World War.

His parents, who were Jewish refugees from a region in Germany that is now part of Poland, were at the station hiding from a German air raid at the time.

Springer moved to Queens, New York, at the age of four, with his parents and older sister.

He started his career in politics after studying political science and law at the university.

He was an advisor to Robert F. Kennedy, and served as mayor of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1978, but after a failed bid to become governor of Ohio, he turned to a career in television journalism.

He became a reporter at a local TV station and worked his way up to become an anchor.

Launched in 1991, The Jerry Springer Show began life as a regular talk show focusing on social issues and American politics, helmed by the then-moderate Springer.

But in an effort to boost ratings, Springer changed things dramatically a few years later, focusing on lewd and obscene content.

Springer has repeatedly defended his platform against accusations that it was too low-key.

He told the BBC in 2014: “You could just decide to put rich people who speak English for the Queen on TV and just do it but that wouldn’t reflect the whole of society.”

He added, “If all shows were anything like mine, that would be wrong. But you can’t have TV like Friends, Seinfeld, all these rich, good people and you love that.”

“If someone rich and famous goes on TV and talks about who they’ve been sleeping with, we’re not going to get enough of it. We’re rooting for them. But if it’s a low-income person, we’re suddenly saying trash.”

In most episodes, guests come to talk about family problems and expose adultery and other wrongdoings.

Springer should have tried to mediate, but the confrontations often ended in fistfights, with guests being held back by security guards.

The audience regularly chanted “Jerry! Jerry!” When tensions mount through the episodes.

On his personal Twitter page, Springer jokingly announced himself as a “talk show host, episode moderator for the end of civilization”.

Springer called his show “escapist entertainment”, but others saw the show as contributing to the weakening of television and the decline of social values.

He often jokingly told people he met that his wish for them was: “I wish you were never on my show.”

image source, Getty Images

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On his Twitter profile, Springer jokingly announced himself as a “talk show host, ringleader for the end of civilization.”

In the late 1990s, the show topped the ratings for daytime television in the United States, beating even Oprah. It ended its run in 2018 after declining viewing figures.

In 2003, a musical based on the TV series Anarchy was released. Jerry Springer: The Opera 609 ran for performances in London from April 2003 to February 2005 before touring the UK in 2006.

It has won four Olivier Awards including Best New Motion Picture Musical. In January 2005 its UK telecast on BBC Two attracted 55,000 complaints.

Jerry Springer: The opera sparked accusations of blasphemy and protests from religious activists. But broadcast regulator Ofcom said it did not breach its guidelines.

From 2007 to 2008, Springer hosted America’s Got Talent, and in recent years has appeared on Judge Jerry’s Courtroom.

In June 2009, Springer made his debut as Billy Flynn in Chicago at the Cambridge Theatre, London.

Springer also appeared on the BBC’s Who Do You Think You? A program that traces his family through the Holocaust to the small town of Neustein, now in Poland.

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Watch: Terrible Moments on The Jerry Springer Show

This past October, Springer starred in the US version of The Masked Singer – one of his last appearances on television.

He had quit The Jerry Springer Podcast, after eight years, in December.

Political commentator David Axelrod tweeted: Jerry Springer will be remembered as the episode director of an embarrassing tabloid-style TV show.

“But I met him earlier, when he was a rebellious mayor and progressive candidate for governor of Ohio in a race I covered. He was funny, energetic and incisive.”

YouTuber KSI said: “RIP Jerry Springer. You made my days off at school funnier.”

TV presenter Matthew Wright remembers How he “went to see Jerry Springer Opera with Jerry Springer, who loved every second of it,” adding, “Top fella, big vice at [Channel 5 show] Right Staff, I hope he rests in peace.”

In lieu of flowers, Springer’s family asked for a donation, act of kindness for someone in need, or a worthy advocacy organization, honoring the way Springer would sign off his talk shows: “Take care of yourself, and each other.”

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