America is just a bunch of dumb goons spoiling for a fight.
Sadly, that’s how we look on the “Jerry Springer Show” - and much worse too. Over the past weeks Springer’s sicko-sleazy talk show has become way sicko-sleazier as lovers, ex-lovers, friends and relatives belt each other with little or no provocation, one-on-one or in brawling groups.
“Jerry Springer” is now the all-brawl talk show. The new guest guidelines are apparently “Come out swinging.” Springer must have a “Xena: Warrior Princess” complex. His new mantra for talk show decorum seems to be Good Slap Is Better Than Good Dish.
Recently Heather, 16, was a guest. She had grown tired of her boyfriend Russ and found a new lover, Jason. Russ slugged Jason. Heather’s mom clocked Russ.
Even on an episode about exhibitionism and nudity called “I Refuse to Wear Clothes” there was a slugfest. You’d think nudity would be enough - two female guests appeared in the altogether, not-so-discreetly digitized. But no. The boyfriend of one nudist hit the boyfriend of the other nudist.
None of the above were little love pats.
And slap us silly - this strategy of violence is working. Springer’s ratings are soaring.
Springer has survived viewer and industry backlash against talk show sensationalism to become hotter than ever.
“Springer” regularly beats comfy-easy “Rosie O’Donnell” in major markets. A spate of recent “Rosie O’Donnell” clones has not produced a major hit. Last season’s movement to sanitize talk-TV - sparked by a slaying in the wake of a guest ambush on “The Jenny Jones Show” - has stalled. We don’t want nice. We want spice.
During the November sweeps ratings period, among syndicated talk shows “Springer” ranked second in viewership to “Oprah” in top markets. It has beaten “Oprah” in Cleveland, Atlanta and New Orleans.
“Springer” is so strong that Oprah Winfrey is worried. On last Wednesday’s “Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel” she lamented about Atlanta with “I’m being beaten by Jerry Springer. Yes, I am.”
Once “Springer” was just part of a pathetic, salacious yak pack. Now he is a weirdo pop culture icon. He has made “The X-Files.”
On Sunday’s “X-Files” - a black-and-white episode based on the Frankenstein legend, the movie “Mask” and other recycled pop culture - Springer guest-starred as himself, in fictionalized goofs on his show.
Not that fictions aren’t part of the Springer shtick. Those brawls sure look staged.
And Springer battles on.
Springer’s show titles have exclamation points. “I Want Your Man!” “Stop Stalking My Man!” “Klanfrontation!”
As if we didn’t get the point.
A recent, very special “Springer” had two punches.
“Surprise! I Have Two Lovers!” showcased secret sexual affairs. Jenny was going with Jason until she got involved with his brother. There they are, Jason bulked up bigger than a Mack truck, and Gary, an even bigger tank. Before a word is spoken Jason rushes Gary, toppling him to the floor. Pretty soon six guys including a Springer staffer are rolling around head-locked like pro wrestlers. Jerry’s cameraman is in there, up close.
Cut away to Jerry looking stunned. A well-studied expression. Well-prepared.
But maybe not quite enough emotion, Jer.
Brawl temporarily quashed, we segue to an exchange between our three sluggin’ lovers that goes essentially - as best we can tell - like this.
“Bleep. He’s the only person that you have ever bleep. You been there for her? What? Bleep. What for you bleep. What? Bleep. You (expletive) me (they didn’t quite bleep that one in time) or what? Bleep.”
No wonder these morons knock each other around. They never learned how to talk.
And Springer’s staff probably hops them all up on Froot Loops and Twinkies in the green room pre-show to make them manic.
So why do we fall for the brawl?
Because it’s trippy. Watching, you can’t believe it’s really real. Which means you can’t believe Springer is actually getting away with these fake fisticuffs, started with no provocation at all.
Or that, given his titillating topics, he really needs the extra pump.
Here’s what else is fascinating, even amazing. Unlike Geraldo, Springer manages to stay so-so-so emotionally distanced.
Typically Springer stands there looking the picture of rationality. No comments on the violence. Just helpful hints like sermons from the mount.
The audience is Springer’s Greek chorus. He lets it do his dirty work, booing, raving, catcalling for him.
Yet Springer is the cause, the end, the purpose of it all.
His daily Final Thought, a homily that comes at the end of his show, is the real kicker.
“Till next time take care of yourself and each other.”
If his dysfunctional guests actually did that, Springer wouldn’t have a show.
Of course, it’s all for our amusement, for us the drooling viewers. And just as we lap up battlin’ “Xena” we sure do lap up “Springer.”
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Kinney Littlefield The Orange County Register