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Springer vs. Winfrey
In the world of entertainment, TV talk shows have undoubtedly flooded every inch of space on daytime television. Many of us have seen and heard the often recycled topics found on such veteran shows as Geraldo and Sally Jesse Raphael. Anyone who watches talk shows on a regular basis knows that each one varies in style and format. One might enjoy watching the sometimes trashy subject matter found on Jenny Jones, while someone else might prefer the more serious and light-hearted feel of the Maury Povich show. But no two shows are more profoundly opposite in the content, while at the same time standing out above the rest, than the Jerry Springer and Oprah Winfrey shows.
Jerry Springer could easily be considered the king of “trash talk.” The topics on his show are as shocking as they come. For example, the show takes the ever common talk show themes of love, lust, sex, sexuality, adultery, cheating, guilt, hate, conflict and morality to a different level. In a vintage Springer show, one finds women who cheated on their boyfriends and are ready to confess. But the boyfriends are in for an even bigger surprise when they find out who their girlfriends have been cheating with. As the secret lovers are patiently waiting back stage, the girlfriends confess that they have been cheating on their men with other women. Another episode seemed reminiscent of the John and Lorenna Bobbitt case, only more twisted. A man cuts off his own genitals because he claimed that his homosexual neighbor was stalking him. Shocking, indeed, but the list of talk material goes on from dangerous love triangles, broken homes, pregnant strippers, teenage prostitutes, adult film stars, devil worshippers, and the always popular rates booster, the KKK. Clearly, the Jerry Springer Show is a display and exploitation of societies moral catastrophes; yet people are willing to eat up the intriguing mishaps of other people’s lives.
Oprah Winfrey was once a follower of the trash TV format, but her long running popular TV talk show has since been reformed. Like Jerry Springer, the Oprah Winfrey Show takes talk TV to its extreme, but Oprah goes in the opposite direction. Oprah’s show is probably the most immaculate talk show there is. It is unlikely that you will find guests on Oprah that have committed adultery, or have sold their souls to the devil. Instead, the show focuses on the improvement of society and an individual’s quality of life.
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Compared to Oprah, the Jerry Springer Show looks like toxic waste being dumped upon society. Still, there are times when Jerry Springer has made an effort to help the troubled people on his show. One of the most notable was when he helped extremely obese people get to the hospital and helping them turn their lives around. The entire process is still taped for its entertainment value, but at least something good came out of it. Jerry also ends every show with a “final word.” He makes a short speech that sums up the entire moral of the show. Hopefully, this is the part where most people will learn something very valuable.
Even if Oprah is as squeaky clean as they come, the show is not for everyone. The shows main target audience is working middle-class women. A vast majority of these people usually have the time, money, and stability to deal with life’s tougher problems. Jerry Springer, on the other hand, has more of an association with the young adults of society. These are your 18-21 year-olds whose main troubles in life involve love, relationship, sex, pregnancy, money, peers and influence. They are the ones who see the value and lessons to be learned underneath Jerry’s exploitation.
While these two talk shows are as different as night and day, both have ruled the talk show circuit for many years now. Each one caters to a different audience while both have a strong following from legions of fans. Ironically, both could also be considered pioneers in the talk show world. Jerry Springer’s crude and vulgar topics may be looked down upon, but no other talk show comes close to the raw exposure of its guests. Oprah Winfrey was able to break away from the pack and create a unique and highly successful talk show. Only time will tell if anyone is to follow in her footsteps. Even as these two talk shows stand on opposite sides of the spectrum, both have managed to stand alone to their highest extremes and are considered the best at what they do.
1. The Oprah Winfrey Show. Celebrity Stories. ABC. WXYZ-TV, Detroit.
6 Oct. 2000
2. The Jerry Springer Show. Secret Lovers. NBC. WDIV-TV, Detroit. 3 Oct. 2000