By: Francis Carr Jr.
August 27, 2015
Minutes after taping has concluded on a rowdy 25th season premiere Monday, the Atlantic Street studio where “The Jerry Springer Show” is filmed had emptied.
Backstage, one of the show’s guests — a woman embroiled in an affaire de coeur with a young man purported to be a gifted rapper — sat in the hallway, listlessly catching her breath.
Meanwhile, a tuxedoed Springer stood in front of the set (which was struck, brought to Stamford from the show’s former Chicago location, and reassembled in 2009) he has governed for a quarter-century, posing for a photo with an abrupt smile.
“It’s hard for me to get my head around 25 years,” Springer told The Times. “The first contract was for six weeks.”
“It’s a life that I never expected,” he added. “I was a news anchor at the time. This was a side job.”
Springer then retired to his office, where muted lamps and comfy sofas contrasted with the lurid purple floods and ominously-rotating industrial turbines of the nearby stage. On a shelf rested a framed photograph of Springer and Barack Obama standing together.
“Truthfully, what I do, anybody could do,” Springer said, seated at his desk. “You know, in the first couple of weeks you’d be a little nervous, but after a while (you’d get used to it).”
Springer credits his producers with most of the show’s heavy lifting.
“This may be one of the hardest shows on television to produce,” Springer said. “Most talk shows, you call up a celebrity, and there’s your show. … We never have that option, because celebrities are not allowed to be on the show.”
“I have nothing to do with who the guests are, what the show is about,” Springer added. “My job is … to come out here, ask questions that you would ask sitting at home watching, and then tell jokes.”
In 2009, following Connecticut’s instatement of the Digital Media and Motion Picture Tax Credit, NBC decided to move production of some of its shows, including Springer’s, to the Rich Forum complex in Stamford.
At the time, Springer said he was opposed to the move from Chicago to Connecticut because of the effect it would have on the show’s employees — “This business of just cutting people loose, it’s unethical, it’s immoral, I just hate it,” Springer told The Chicago Tribune in 2009 — and because he thought Eastern audiences would lack “the Midwest sense of wonderment.”
However, Springer said he reached a deal with the network that allowed most of the his employees to keep their jobs and follow the show eastward; six years later, he is happy with NBC’s decision to relocate “The Jerry Springer Show.”
“I did argue against (moving) at the time, and the company, to its credit … worked something out, and a lot of people were given the option of moving,” Springer said. “People were given the option to come over here, and that made it all better for me.”
“Moving here gave the show new life, and this community has been great,” Springer added. “At first, people were holding their breath, particularly because we were going to be next door to the church, my god!” he exclaimed, joking.
Springer sees shows like his as participating in a historical trend of technology-spurred democratization of the mainstream media — beginning with talk radio, and since superseded by the Internet.
“Suddenly you had talk radio, and you listened because the entertainment was the callers. We, the audience, became the entertainment,” Springer said, adding that talk shows like his and Phil Donahue’s were the first to bring a similar dynamic to television. “It’s not a few people in New York or Hollywood deciding what our entertainment’s going to be; it’s the people that do it.”
“But it’s hardly revolutionary anymore, when you look at today’s social media,” Springer added.
Earlier, during filming, Springer took a break from another day’s work — arbitrating a lovers’ quarrel, or watching archly while an ecdysiast drenched herself in champagne — to thank the “regular people” who have volunteered to air their grievances on his show each week for the past 25 years.
“These are folks of little or no fame, very little wealth, and no influence,” Springer said during the “Final Thought” segment of his show, which he dedicated to the people who, he said, call and email by the thousands each day, hoping for an audience with him. “Deep down, we are all alike.”