Jerry Springer, the longtime host of one of TV’s most wild and controversial daytime talk shows, has died at 79.
A family spokesperson for the family said Springer died peacefully at home after a “brief illness,” and TMZ reported that it was from pancreatic cancer.
He became a TV icon thanks to his hit syndicated tabloid talk show Jerry Springer, which ran from 1991 to 2008. While the show was highly controversial and often panned as “trash TV,” it was a cultural phenomenon in the 1990s.
“Jerry’s ability to connect with people was at the heart of his success in everything he tried whether that was politics, broadcasting or just joking with people on the street who wanted a photo or a word,” Jene Galvin, a family spokesperson and friend of Springer’s, said in a statement, per AP. “He’s irreplaceable and his loss hurts immensely, but memories of his intellect, heart and humor will live on.”
Early life and career
Born on February 13, 1944 in London, England. His parents were Jewish refugees from Germany, and he was born in a London Underground shelter being used as a bomb shelter during World War II. His family later settled in Queens, New York.
After graduating from Tulane University with a degree in political science and getting a law degree from Northwestern University, Springer began a career in politics. He served on the Cincinnati City Council for five years and became mayor in 1977, serving in office for one year.
He transitioned into a journalism and broadcasting career. He debuted his synonymous talk show in 1991: at the time, Jerry Springer had a focus on news and commentary, but suffered in the ratings.
Jerry Springer: controversial hit
Revamping the show to attract a higher audience, Jerry Springer began embracing more controversial, sensationalized topics involving oddball guests and dysfunctional families.
A typical episode might involve revelations about secret affairs, family secrets or bizarre sexual topics, and guests would almost always break out into a physical fight on stage.
Another hallmark of the show was the audience chanting “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”
Ratings improved, and Jerry Springer became a pop culture phenomenon in the 1990s. However, it was also highly controversial and derided as “trash TV.” TV Guide Magazine once listed it as the worst TV show of all time.
But Springer embraced the show’s notoriety and his role as the ringmaster: he often introduced the show as the “worst TV show of all time” and in his Twitter bio he referred to himself as the “ringmaster of civilization’s end.”
“I would never watch my show,” Springer told Reuters in 2000. “I’m not interested in it. It’s not aimed towards me. This is just a silly show.”
Springer never lost his interest in politics and considered a Senate run in the 2000s, but thought the association with his show would hurt his chances.
While no one would mistake Jerry Springer as highbrow art, it was one of TV’s biggest guilty pleasures and it enjoyed high viewership in the ’90s, at one point beating Oprah in the ratings. It ran for 27 seasons, ending in 2018.
Springer followed it up with another series, a courtroom show called Judge Jerry, which ran for three seasons before it was canceled last year.
He also hosted America’s Got Talent in its second and third seasons. Throughout his career he also appeared in many films and TV shows, usually playing himself and parodying his talk show.
Rest in peace, Jerry Springer. Your show was truly unlike anything else on TV, and it always kept us entertained.
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