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Today, Jerry Springer announced his retirement. But, while he might have built the trash television kingdom, he will forever reign as its complicated king.
As you read this, Jerry Springer, the great social educator of our time, would have packed up his technicolour reflective wall and rode into the sunset atop a ringing chorus of Jerry, Jerry, Jerry, Jerry. After 27 years and 4,000 episodes, there will be no more. Except for the reruns that will presumably run forever.
Now, Jerry taught us many things. He taught us that midgets were sluts, trailer park trash married inanimate objects, and the sanctity of monogamy was only as good as the next pulled weave.
If you thought the above were the lessons that the great man taught, see me after class. Jerry’s enduring quality was selling out. He did it, because it’s what America wanted him to do. He was merely the forum, a blank canvas that we chose to fingerpaint doodles on.
Don’t believe me? Check out the early episodes of his show, where he pressed Oliver North, articulated the problems of Black America escaping the traps that the government built, and engineered heartfelt family reconciliations.
Sadly, America didn’t really want that. So, he quickly went from that, to this:
The fact that it might be engineered, or false or whatever, is irrelevant. This was the America that America wanted to see. Not a land of the free and the brave, but of the incensed and the desperate. Jerry was the demigod of trash television, and his show was the trash pile Olympus of it.
Jerry might not have been the first to enable this schadenfreude cockwaffle, but he might have done it the best. He was the high-water mark of the washing tide of legendarily bad daytime television. Judge Judith, Ricki Lake, The Cops from COPS. Bend the knee in respect for your departing king. The gravitational pull of Jerry should be recognised, the smiling sun shining on a place where it doesn’t shine. It even turned the once-serious Maury Povich (son of a legendarily ornate Washington Post writer) to the dark side of television, who seems to be Jerry’s heir apparent, who will loudly out disputed paternity tests until the end of time.
But Maury will never truly be king. Jerry spoke to the true gut of America, a place where justice should be served. Not in a court, but in a carpark, in front of a baying mob. As the almost-stripper Destinyi once opined: She screwed me, so I fucked her man. I mean, put that on the flag, bruh.
However, it would do the man a great injustice to just deride him as a smut-merchant. What set him apart was his great heart. He was wise, he was lovely, and he articulated the void that we were lost staring into. It didn’t matter if the person we just abused was banging his dog, Jerry pushed us closer to understanding the love they shared.
And yes, he might be a glittering jewel perched atop a pile of fishnet, surprise penis and violent cholesterol, but goddamn it, he shined, and he remained true to the very last. Long may he rule.