Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 33: Sleazy Talk Shows

Talk shows are a mainstay in television programming. Of the American talks shows I have seen and heard of, there are too many that are watered down and boring. Among all shows, there are three I would really call trashy. These sleazy talk shows all listed below. There are some things these programs have in common, including the hosts’ exuberance, the quality of guests, the audience, and the effect the shows have on the common viewers.

The Jerry Springer Show

sleazy talk shows, jerry springer, the jerry springer show

When I talk about sleaze on American television, this may be one of the first if not the first shows that come to mind.

Going from video tape from an early episode of this show, I would say that it was in between today’s Steve Wilkos and Bill Cunningham. Springer might have on some preteens or a couple of “normal” people with a complaint might appear on the show to hash out some problems. It was still pretty stupid, namely because of the questions that Springer would ask his guests, but not at the low level it is today.

The tenor of the show would begin to change in the mid- to late-1990’s, as more and more guests began to fight during the allotted hour. From that point on, the show has followed a pretty distinct pattern:

1. Leading up to the fight, there is a discussion based on common elements for each guest.

  • The first person being interviewed was away in prison or free at home and there was some suspicion that a significant other was cheating.
  • The person who suggested going on Jerry Springer was otherwise somehow wronged by the second guest, who will show up later.
  • Whatever the case, one person is being dishonest in private but will spill their guts on television.

2. There will be fights, trash talking, and plenty of bleeps.

3. Fights will be broken up by security guards, but not without the bell rings (a mid-2000s addition).

4. Chants of “Jerry, Jerry” are sprinkled in intermittently while the host makes some snide comments.

5. After the guests have had their say and share of violence, the discussion then opens up to some audience members to ask the guests questions, or more often, insult them.

6. Then Jerry will offer his Final Word, which is completely hypocritical in and of itself and is loosely connected to what just transpired.

There can be some variations with the inclusion of little people who will inevitably fight, black women who will inevitably take off their wigs during a fight, and the occasional “Is This a Man or a Woman?” episodes.

In short, the fights are the main draw, especially for teenagers and young adults who love to watch a good fight and see people yell insults and obscenities. The producers have been capitalizing on it ever since.

There is no pretension about it. At one point, the opening for the show had a television in an alley-way garbage can. This is what the show become and it will remain until it is canceled or Springer finally leaves the show.


sleazy talk shows, maury, maury povich

Formerly known as The Maury Povich Show after its host, this show has been criticized as being far worse than The Jerry Springer Show has ever been. When looking at the types of episodes shown, I can see why.

1. Maury is not known for fights, but paternity tests and the way in which Povich excitedly delivers the news. Commonly seen on these episodes:

2. Many of the women brought on the show are promiscuous. There have been at least two women who tested over six men (including one posthumously) to find out who fathered their children.

3. Despite being promiscuous, some women will continue to talk trash until the results come in. Those who are “One thousand percent sure” that the man they targeted as being they baby daddy are often wrong as hell. When they find out they are wrong, they will then often go crying off the stage in a huff after the man is told “You are…NOT the father!”

4. Before the results are in, there is a period where the mother and possible father of the child insult each other, aided by taped segments.

5. Sometimes, the man awaiting the paternity results brings his wife/girlfriend/mother on the show so those women can also talk trash to the mother of the child in question.

6. There are times when the men on the show dragged their wives/girlfriends on the show because they are extremely paranoid.

7. Either way, the audience is rowdier on Maury” and the spectators are quick to cheer or boo various guests the second they appear. This has to be urged by the producers.

There are episode variations, with shows featuring: sex secrets (which often lead to more paternity tests, (emotionally) abusive or unconventional relationships, out-of-control teenagers (mostly girls), transsexuals, transformations, caught on tape moments, and hours devoted to missing children. There are hours dedicated to updates and year-end reviews. But every other episode features a slew of paternity and/or polygraph tests and the potential fallout is the main draw.

The Bill Cunningham Show

Although relatively tame in comparison to the other two shows, The Bill Cunningham Show is trashy due to the host, guests, and subject matter. (Good on you, IMDb for rating it so low.) Cunningham himself is a troll.

sleazy talk shows, bill cunningham, the bill cunningham show, troll cunningham
My apologies for using a meme, but don’t you see a resemblance?

Troll Cunningham loves to have loud guests and then stoke their anger. Often, he will sit in between guests, repeat what they say, and do so with that impish grin on his face. I would compare most of the topics to that shown on Jerry Springer, since they are heavy on cheating storylines and feature incestuous ones. Most of the guests on the show are black women, and the black women featured on the show will raise their voices at the drop of the hat. This only serves to feed into stereotypes that Cunningham himself loves to repeat as a Conservative radio host and commentator.

This is the guy who once told Tamara Holder to “Know your role and shut your mouth.” And this was on FOX NEWS.

Overall, These Sleazy Talk shows…

…are still on because the producers have figured out what the target audience wants to see. Many of us love to see celebrities taken down a peg, but we may also love to see those who may have it worse than us. That’s what it’s all about.

Those who love to watch sleazy talk shows do so more often than not to feel better about themselves. The easiest way to do this is to feature poor, ignorant, inarticulate folks who come from disadvantaged neighborhoods and make a buttload of poor decisions. And this is something that I hate about some people: They love to look at others so they can take a break from looking at themselves.

Next up, I’m going to talk about something I wish was applied to keep these shows off the air completely: censorship.


3 thoughts on “Things I Don’t Like About Television, Episode 33: Sleazy Talk Shows

  1. You had me up until you seemingly advocated censorship. Then again, I’ve enjoyed your series thus far, so I’ll hold off until reading it before passing judgment. Perhaps you have something to teach me.


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