Imagine my surprise when I opened up my newspaper this morning — I mean, double clicked on that purdy little Firefox icon on my desktop — and saw the headlines: Jerry Springer and Maury Povich have had their eponymous schlockfests renewed through 2010. Good God, who the hell knew these shows were even on TV anymore? And, perhaps more to the point, who gives a hoot? (Sure, someone must, because they’re getting renewed. But still.)
Get this: Jerry has been on for 17 years and Maury has been on for 10. I have never really watched Mr. Connie Chung’s current “talk” show because, frankly, the pain is too great to bear. See, I grew up watching Maur — son of the great Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich — anchor Panorama on D.C.’s channel 5 in the 1970s. He was so smart, so handsome, so trustworthy. The future seemed unlimited for the young journalist back then; I never imagined that he would cash out so completely. Jerry, on the other hand, with his less-than stellar political career long in the past, has always served a purpose on TV, filling a vital, lowbrow niche. After all, every incestuous hermaphrodite who has cheated on his/her husband/wifewith his/her mother/father/brother/sister needs a national media outletto clear his/her mind. And, for a time, around, oh, 1997, I was part of the host’s fan base. It’s hard to forget what a big deal the guy was: I remember one meeting at EW circa the summer of 1998 when we spent a good half hour discussing how we were going to cover some big episode of Jer’s show in which a guest admitted to making sexy time with his pony.
But, man, those days are over, aren’t they? Of course, you could argue that Jerry Springer sorta gave birth to the out-of-control salacious gossip media machine of today. But it’s hard to imagine that a story about a man marrying his horse would have nearly as big an impact on the zeitgeist now — in the post-Lewinsky, post-9/11 era of Al Qaeda and anthrax and Iraq — as it did a decade ago. Don’t you agree, PopWatchers? Do you still watch these guys? Where have all the transvestite cowboys gone?