Sprung by Springer sur­prises

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Tv Guide -

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.’’

Caught:

Jerry Springer likes ou­tra­geous sit­u­a­tions.

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