The Jerry Springer Show is into its 23rd season, but while its host is happy to joke about its infamous outrageousness factor, he also has sharp words for critics who suggest it has played a role in dumbing down television culture.
“This idea that we are better than the people we see on television. We should get over it. We may dress better and have got luckier in the gene pool of parents, but life is primarily luck,” he told the audience at the MIPDoc conference in Cannes last Sunday.
“The Jerry Springer Show is now in its 23rd season. I would like to formally apologise! I’m sorry, I’ve ruined the culture! But this concept that television has influenced human behaviour and the destruction of society is garbage. We had a holocaust before anyone had a television set.”
Springer was in town to promote “Tabloid,” a show he’s fronting for Discovery Networks that covers true-life crime and scandals. His on-stage interview mixed wisecracks – “I don’t know why they called me. Maybe they were drinking!” – with a spirited defence of the kind of television he’s most associated with.
Springer claimed that shows like “The Jerry Springer Show” and “Tabloid” – the latter will air in eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa on Discovery’s new ID Xtra channel – have global appeal, suggesting that if he were able to gather 20 16-24 year-olds from every country in the world in a room, they’d find common ground.
Springer also drew a parallel between his long-running chat-show and the growth of social media, as young people in particular take to services like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to express themselves.
“What is happening in the social media was inevitable. The coming of my show 23 years ago was inevitable. What we are observing, witnessing is the democratisation of culture,” he said.
“For thousands of years it was people sitting in an audience watching something happen on a stage, on a screen, on a ball-field. It was the audience and then the performers, whether it be sports, theatre, music, whatever.
What technology has done is increase the move towards the democratisation.”
Springer pointed to popular TV talent shows like Britain’s Got Talent and American Idol as the logical latest steps in a trend of audience-as-stars that started with talk-radio shows, and continued with TV talk-shows like “The Phil Donahue Show” in the US in the US and on TV.
Springer said that at 70 years old, he has made enough money to not have to work, meaning he now chooses projects based on whether they are “important” – his political activities – or simply entertaining and fun. He stressed that the two don’t tend to cross over: politics won’t become a bigger factor in “The Jerry Springer Show.”