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Deals With the Devil -- Next Springer!

So I was surfing my way through the ocean of information that is America Online when I stumbled across the following news flash:


CHICAGO (AP) - All of a sudden, it's Jerry Springer who's taking the hits, not the guests on his fists-flying talk show.

Rolling Stone magazine and a TV entertainment show are reporting that the fights are about as real as a pro wrestling match, a charge the show denies.

Maybe you had the same reaction I did: You're just figuring this out now?

I'm not going to claim that I'm an avid watcher of The Jerry Springer Show. Not counting the times when I was flipping through the channels and paused because some harlot in a short skirt was knocking the holy hell out of some trollop in hot pants, I've probably only actually seen four episodes in my life. One, I think, had something to do with gang bangs. Another had something to do with strippers. A third dealt with love triangles. And if I remember the fourth correctly, there were call girls involved.

The point is, I haven't studied this show with the skeptical eye I've used to examine, say, Oprah. But I have watched enough to know this: no human being with a functioning brain stem could possibly watch The Jerry Springer Show and come away thinking they've just sampled the bitter taste of reality. For one thing, the white trash have all their teeth. For another, the acting is utterly transparent. The more talented "guests" on this program would have a hard row landing screen time on Melrose Place.

Incidentally, that's how Andrew Shue got his start. Honest.

It is for this reason, I think, that I find myself lacking the fury, the outrage, the indignation of the journalistic purebodies who've jumped all over this story: Extra, Rolling Stone, The New York Post.

Don't get me wrong. I find the show's practice distasteful, dishonest, and I think Jerry Springer should have his teeth kicked in with a steel-toed boot. But that's just on principle. I'm only saying I'm not surprised. And neither, I suspect, are you.

No, the more troubling news about The Jerry Springer Show went relatively unnoticed, what with the hubbub surrounding ol' Jer's half-gainer off the tower of Milli Vanilli. It was a watershed moment among the babbleheads. For the first time since Phil Donahue screamed "Is the caller there?" and audiences cheered madly, a syndicated talk show host has knocked the Queen of Pap, Oprah Winfrey, off her top-rated perch. The conquering hero? None other than the former mayor of Cincinnati, Jerry Springer.

This is the very essence of a troubling dilemma.

(Cincinnati, you may recall, is also responsible for that crazy old coot, Marge Schott. All those thinking the good citizens of southwest Ohio should check their water supply, say aye. Motion carries.)

If God himself came down from the Heavens on high one day and said, "Ko, I'm giving you a choice. You can have one night with Carmen Electra, but the next morning you'll wake up with Tori Spelling," not even He could capture the mixed emotions I feel now. On the one hand, for those of us who have long suffered silently as waves of glassy-eyed supporters marched to worship at the altar of Winfrey, this is a banner day. At last, America has ripped the blinders off and taken a hard look at the horse pulling its cart. And it doesn't like what it sees. Cream puff interviews of Whitney Houston? No more! We'll put her through the ringer! Oprah's latest diet is unsuccessful? Who cares! Eat some more cake, fatty! Stedman did something sweet and cute? A heavy thing to Stedman's head!

But this.... must we overthrow Stalin only to put Pol Pot in his place?

I realize the argument could be made that there's a difference between the two. In Oprah's case, we have fans who genuinely admire and like the star, who feel a kinship with her. In that respect, the relationship is a lot like that between Rosie O'Donnell and her fans. They fawn all over each other, while those of us who just don't get it stand on the sidelines scratching our heads. Jerry's relationship with his fans is more like that between Geraldo Rivera and his people. They watch not so much because they're interested in what Jerry (or Gerry) has to say, but on the off chance that a stray stool will knock 'em upside the head.

Okay, so that's of some comfort. Still, I find the whole spectacle more than a little disturbing. You hear about deals with the devil, but till now I've never actually seen one going down. I don't know what will come of this -- for all we know, maybe this is like matter meeting anti-matter, and there will be a horrific explosion that kills Oprah and Jerry, leaving Larry King atop the charred heap. I just know you need to be careful what you ask for. Because, really, when you get right down to it, that's the lesson in this.

As for me, I have a date with Carmen Electra...


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