The Jerry Springer Show has come to represent everything that is socially disturbing about America; by presenting a bevy of sexual and racial scandals hosted by a disgraced mayor of Cincinnati, it has “changed the face of reality television.” This paper will investigate the history of The Jerry Springer Show, documenting its fourteen year journey from a trashy talk show catering to a small isolated demographic, to its current position as an American cultural icon replete with spin-off movies and Broadway musicals.
The Springer Show glamorizes and gives a voice to those that are not often sought out as a significant demographic, including working class and struggling Americans. Embracing the moniker, “the worst show on television,” it has affected the American class system and forced the public to watch, love and participate in the underbelly of society. Guests come from “trailer parks” and “ghettos” around the nation, eager to have their dirty laundry aired on broadcast television. Episodes such as “Homeless Shelter Romance” and “Trailer Park Tramps” feature Americans who have no education, skills, or money. They are flown to Chicago and offered the opportunity to be on television, the postmodern indicator of all that is meaningful. Analogous to the social phenomenon of reality television, an appearance on The Jerry Springer Show can become a life-affirming achievement.
This paper will analyze the various manifestations of demographics in the program, including the cast, guests, audience members and the viewers at home, as represented through production techniques, audience participation and the embedded commercials. Depending on the observer’s class, the program can be a way of life or a guilty pleasure; yet it unites people from all walks of life with one chant, “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”