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Making sacrifices to the gods of clicks & ratings
Dennis Wyatt

The Jerry Springer Show will no longer spawn new episodes.

No one connected with the show is saying why, but if you’ve ever seen the show the answer is obvious. Cable TV “news” shows have taken Springer’s format and duplicated it without shame.

What passes as civil discourse these days whether on social media or face-to-face is laced with more expletives, vile name calling, more vulgarity, more disrespectful behavior, more outlandish claims, and shameless egomaniac behavior than the most bizarre Jerry Springer episode could ever generate.

I’ve watched maybe a dozen of his “talk” shows out of the 4,000 plus he produced in 28 years. That certainly doesn’t make me an expert on the show. That said I always believed it was scripted nonsense based on the belief people couldn’t be so self-centered and vulgar.

The last 18 months has made me see the folly of my conclusion. 

The level of acrimony and hate coupled with myopic views of the world and the knee jerk reaction of verbally beating people who think differently into submission is rapidly becoming the norm regardless of where people are on the political spectrum.

Entertainment is supposedly an escape. How can programs like the Jerry Springer Show serve that purpose any longer?

Why I thought the stuff was made up had to do with one episode we were watching in a Truckee hotel while killing time before a scheduled horseback ride.

Springer supposedly had on the show an unemployed electrical engineer from Dallas whose big problem was being a pathological liar.

At one point Springer asked him how anyone would know whether he was lying.

The man’s reply, “you see Jerry that’s the thing about being a pathological liar, I could be lying to you right now and you wouldn’t know it.” As he was uttering the words, text appeared on the bottom of the screen with his name and the fact he was an unemployed electrical engineer looking for work in the Dallas area.

I remember thinking that if he was for real it wasn’t exactly a brilliant move that his name and face was out there for human resource directors to see in syndication. 

But then similar geniuses started posting photos they had taken of their wives after they murdered them or live-streamed killing someone on Facebook. It made me realize the human pool in a lot of instances is not too bright when it came to self-incrimination.

Peter Fonda this week became the latest example of how a growing number of people are driven to exposing themselves for what they are in front of a camera or to make them stand out in an endless sea of social media drivel.

Springer and his talk show contemporaries like Jenny Jones — much like cable TV hosts who like to brag they are searching for the truth — never let anything get in the way of ratings. There was the infamous 1995 episode on the Jenny Jones Show when Jonathan Schmitz was lured onto the show by telling him he’d meet a secret admirer. That secret admirer ended up being a gay friend by the name of Scott Amedure. Long story short, Schmitz meets his secret admirer on national TV after Jenny Jones builds the audience into a frenzy. The surprise ends the next day with Schmitz being arrested for Amedure’s murder.

Springer and his ilk are all about pushing buttons just like many political cable TV commentators on the left and right and now a growing number of comics who have abandoned night clubs and dives for vicious personal attack humor in favor of social media so they can boost their bottom lines which is building audiences with the ultimate goal of securing fatter paychecks.

Then there is the audience that laps it up as human beings are fed to the Gods of Clicks and Ratings. The more human carnage — verbal and physical — the more fascinated we are.

It is why it’s rich to hear people bemoan the level we have sunk to in political debate or interacting with others that either have different viewpoints or are simply not carbon copies of ourselves.

We slam wholesale character assassination and personal attacks when it is done by someone who things differently than we do and the recipient is a philosophical or political ally. But then we crank up the flame thrower and try to set a new standard in scorched earth communication when we “debate” someone that doesn’t share our views and values.

Given this is the new norm no wonder Jerry Springer is throwing in the towel.

How can shows like Springer’s stand out in the world that’s been created since the night of Nov. 8, 2016?

Blame whoever you want but it takes two to tango.

The King James Bible seems so quaint today filled with observations such as “he who is without sin among you, let him cast a stone at her.”

Given how we use social media to stone people we don’t like and make it possible for shows like Springer’s to thrive for more than 28 years that if few watched it would have been cancelled a long time ago, restraint based on our own moral shortcomings is an antiquated concept.

We need to look in the mirror. If you do not see the TV persona that is Jerry Springer looking back and those who are following in his footsteps today to squeeze ratings out of either being ugly to others or encouraging others to be in order to build an audience or make a point, then don’t engage in making civilization coarser.

This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.