Sprung by Springer surprises
IN A world of ambiguity The Jerry Springer Show offers clarity — and the occasional punch in the face. The show has endured 18 years, 3500 episodes and enough philanderers to fill the MCG.
‘‘I’ve been watching the show religiously for 15 years,’’ says ‘‘Chris’’, a guest on the show.
Several weeks ago, Chris called producers to tell his sordid tale. He has been intimate with a neighbour, Tamika, who is married to Craig. Cue shocking story line twist: Chris works with Craig. Cue shocking twist No.2: Chris is married to another woman, Jenny. Producers loved his story and flew the party of four to Chicago, paying their air fares (same plane, separate seats), hotels (separate rooms) and a food allowance.
Pressed about the truthfulness of his story, Chris insists it’s ‘‘all legit’’, though producers ask him to emphasise certain plot points to better move the story along.
So why, then, would he want to air his dirty laundry on national television?
‘‘It’s something new,’’ says Chris, 28, wearing a crucifix necklace.
‘‘And if it happened on the streets (having his adultery revealed outside the show), it would have been five times worse.’’
After the infamous Jenny Jones Show incident in 1995 — when a secretly gay man was killed after confessing he was attracted to his male best friend — the Springer show makes sure there are no surprises.
For guests to appear, producers must disclose to them that during the show a secret will be revealed. For legal reasons, producers must read to the prospective guests four possible revelations over the phone, one of which is the correct answer. They consult a sheet of 21 possible secrets — your wife’s cheating with another guy, your man is secretly gay, your girlfriend wants a third person in bed, and so on.
‘‘The people who come on our show are fans of the show, so they know what they’re getting into,’’ executive producer Rachelle Consiglio says.
The show receives 5000 calls and emails each week. Only 2 per cent will turn into an on-air segment.
Producer Nicole Toalson spends her day dialling telephone number after number of potential guests.
She is at once inquisitive and ingratiating. The shock of asking such personal questions has worn off, but she still asks as though she’s talking to her best friend.
‘‘Is he still having sex with Stacy?’’ Toalson asks a caller, jotting in a spiral notebook. ‘‘When’s the last time you slept with him?’’ ‘‘Do you still love him?’’
CONSIGLIO says the show has been on so long that ‘‘of course people might juice up their stories, throw in an extra detail’’, but she insists they do the best they can to keep the stories as legitimate as possible.
Springer explains: ‘‘It’s about people caught in outrageous situations. I’ve never met a person who couldn’t, at one moment in their life, have been on our show.
‘‘Ninety per cent of us would never go on a talk show, but 10 per cent would. And 10 per cent of America is 30 million people. That’s a lot of shows.’’
Jerry Springer likes outrageous situations.