Idiots Guide: Best of the Worst 1990’s Daytime ‘Talk Shows’…

It could easily be argued, and rightly so, that in many ways, the proliferation of popular culture specific to the decade of the 1990’s was phenomenal, if not only transformational. At the same time, it could and should be noted that this era also marked the beginning of an insidious undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in America.  It came like a trojan horse, clandestinely entwined in the gloriously harmonious, certainly hedonistically musical fanfare that Ricky Martin’s ‘Livin La Vida Loca’, typified. In short, it came in the same box that held the financial boomtown environment that most of us were living through.  

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On one hand we had unparalleled financial success, and/or hopeful opportunities. On the other hand, there existed in real-time what many social critics would decry, this Editor included, as the proverbial ‘Dark Ages’ of daytime television.

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It was the advent of programming aimed at this nation’s lowest common denominator, low brow drama loving audience, as well as the hopelessly curious addicts of the bizarre. The ‘reality’ based daytime ‘talk’ show enveloped programming in ways that are comical to look back on today, but is also a sad commentary on the depraved depths of American taste in television entertainment. In fact, behind the depravity, some people actually did lose their lives as a result. Case in point, Scott Bernard Amedure  (January 26, 1963 – March 9, 1995) who was murdered by former friend and Jenny Jones Show surprise guest Jonathan Schmitz. Keep in mind that Mr. Schmitz was diagnosed as mentally ill…long before the Jenny Jones Show. Why was he on my television, and in your living room? How was this societal beneficial entertainment? Answer: It wasn’t.  

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The fact of the matter was that ratings soared in unprecedented fashion, the daily and weekly numbers were astronomical…as in into the multi-millions. For a time it seemed that an entire generation of youth was addicted to, for lack of a better word, trash television. Whatever your personal opinion might be regarding this era of daytime ‘entertainment’, and it is more than likely that you have at least some nostalgic thoughts and feelings for it because if for nothing else, it reminds you of your youth. That said, the fact remains that history will not judge this era kindly and/or to be a highlight of American cultural revolution. Although, it will be a interesting footnote, if not fairly noteworthy.  

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Idiots Guide has compiled a list of 10 of the more memorable shows of the genre from the era…or ‘best of the worst’, if you will…  Chooses to judge you not, rather thanks you and even forgives you for your 1990’s viewing participation…We know you had no choice. #CarCrash #HadtoWatch

The Top 10 Best of the Worst 1990’s Daytime Talk Shows…

#10.   The Suzanne Somers Show   /   (1994) 


In hindsight, perhaps Suzanne Somers regrets leaving the mid 1970’s – 1980’s hit sitcom ‘Three’s Company’ as early as she did. Her career didn’t exactly blossom post television. In 1994 she became another among the hoards of new daytime talk show hosts. Her show was cleverly called ‘The Suzanne Somers Show’ and it was, for lack of a better word, boring as hell. However, audiences did like Suzanne, she was the reason that the few that did tune in, did so at all. Mercifully, the show was cancelled after just one season. Suzanne later went on to become a best selling author of a series of self-help books, among them, ‘Ageless: The Naked Truth About Bioidentical Hormones’ (2006).

#9.   ‘Sally’  aka  The Sally Jesse Raphael Show   /   (1983 – 2002)    


Who could forget Sally Jesse Raphael and her trademark red-framed glasses, that were oversized and comical in appearance. Interesting side note, those glasses became part of her wardrobe in 1983 by happenstance, she began wearing them as a solution to her having trouble reading her teleprompter. Having bought them while in a hurried situation not worrying about the bright red color at the time…History knows the rest. Sally actually won a Daytime Emmy Award in 1989, this was before her shows (she wasn’t alone) decent into the abject mediocrity of sensationalized human trash topics. We’ll get to the ‘pied piper’ of this movement later…

#8.   Ricki Lake   /    (1993 – 2004) 


The Ricki Lake show was an assembly line of sensationalist topics dealing with invited guests, paired with the questions and comments from an often hilariously judgmental studio audience. Ricki was the 1st host to primarily target teenagers as her main audience, in addition to young adults, college students, and urban viewership. In many ways her show was the ‘MTV’ alternative to the 25 (+) targeted programming of her competitors. It was largely still melodramatic garbage, but…different?

#7.   Rolanda   /   (1994) 


Believe it or not, the ‘Rolanda Show’ was actually conceived as a replacement program in certain larger media markets that were carrying the ‘The Les Brown Show’ when it went on hiatus. Because of horrible ratings, out went Les Brown in January 1994, and in came Rolonda Watts and ‘The Rolonda Show’ which ran for about four seasons, doing basically the same ‘Springer’ type content, albeit with less of the faux violent rhetoric and theatrics. Ho Hum, as these shows rolled out one after another in the 1990’s.

#6.   The Richard Bey Show   /   (1987 – 1996) 


Seriously though, who is this guy? Richard who? ‘Bey Bey’s Kids’ what? Seriously, does anyone know who this guy is and what he represents? Better yet, why did he ever get a talk show? I’m sorry, can’t with this one. I just can’t. No dinner for us. 

#5.  The Maury Povich Show   /   Original Run (1991 – 1999) 


This show originally aired in 1991, and was called ‘The Maury Povich Show’. By the time 1995 came around, during the height of the ‘trash talk’ phenomenon,  the show changed it’s name to ‘Maury’ for the 1995–1996 season. The name change also corresponded with the change in show content. Moving from cheesy but bearable, to a six vehicle pile up on the Long Island Expressway. They say that the show was again changed for the 1998–1999 season, when NBC Universal took the  production reigns. However, it didn’t seem to change for anything that resembled the better. 19 seasons. All the same shit.

#4.  Geraldo   /   (1987 -1998) 


Remember when Geraldo Rivera got his nose broken in an in-studio brawl with ‘Neo-Nazi’ guests? To this day I can’t be sure if that incredible scene of television histrionics was funny, sad, or simply moral justice. For nine years the show was called simply ‘Geraldo’, and during that time he was running neck and neck with Springer for title of ‘Trash TV’ world champion. In fact, it was shows like his that led Newsweek magazine to run a feature exposing the proliferation of and characterization of ‘Trash TV’.  In fairness, Geraldo had a knack for getting high profile guests to appear on his show, including AIDS child activist Ryan White. Geraldo is also the 1st to use his scripted signature for his show’s logo, something that was copied by the likes of Sally Jesse, etc…But back to the infamous ‘brawl’ of November 3, 1988. This was an episode that brought together a combustible mix of White Supremacist Skinheads, Anti-Racist Skinheads, Militant Black Activists, and Jewish Activists. What could go wrong, right? Oh yeah, it went off the rails in historical ways, making television history. It started with a simmering confrontation between men named John Metzger and Roy Innis, Metzer goaded Innis with insulting epithets like ‘Uncle Tom’. Finally, Roy Innis moved towards Metzger, went for his throat and started choking him! Needless to say, a full scale riot/brawl/fiasco ensued..all for the enjoyment and/or horror of the American viewing audience. Rivera got his nose busted in the melee, although ‘shockingly’ no assault charges were filed stemming from this incident. Probably due to the fact that ratings for this episode broke records, and Geraldo got to wear a nose bandage as a badge of honor, or something…Oy Vey!

#3.   Montel Williams   /   (1991 – 2008)           


The early years of ‘Montel’ was much the exact same as the rest of the garbage of the era, actually that’s not entirely true, it was a little better, not much, a little. Then as time passed, thankfully the ratings for these monstrosities started to tank, and Montel used his limited time left on the air to start doing more tissue tugging inspirational concepts, such as ‘finding lost loves’ and ‘reuniting families’, and interesting guests like the self proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne. Montel Williams also frequently championed health causes such as Multiple Sclerosis, which he also suffers from. So, at the end of the day he gets a pass for indulging for a time in the lunacy of the genre.

#2.   The Jenny Jones Show   (1991 -2003)  


I’m sure it was a simple case of extremely bad luck for Jenny Jones that her show happened to be the one in which her former guests became murderers and victims of murder. But that’s exactly what happened. The senseless murder of Scott Amedure happened after the March 6, 1995 taping and subsequent airing of the Jenny Jones Show in which Amedure admitted that he had a gay crush on his friend Jonathan Schmitz. Unfortunately, Schmitz had a history of mental illness which arguably contributed to the eventual shooting death of Amedure by Schmitz. Schmitz was later found guilt of second degree murder, and the Jenny Jones Show caught all kinds of heat for inadvertently facilitating the tragedy. The Amedure family went on to sue The Jenny Jones Show for wrongful death and won, however that judgement was eventually overturned on appeal by the Michigan Court of Appeals. Looking back, this situation was kind of inevitable due to the melodramatic, and exploitive tenor of this show and the many others just like it.

#1.   The Jerry Springer Show   /  Original Run (1991 – 1998) 


Let’s face it, Jerry Springer was the absolute monarch of the reality talk show phenomenon. His show was a special kind of television trash that people couldn’t avert their gaze from. The format was as simple as the content was vapid. The average episode began innocently enough with the obligatory title card sequence and ‘warning’ regarding the show content. The irony of course being that the warning was as likely for loss of intelligence quotient points after viewing, as for language et, all.  Then the hyped up audience starts pumping the air with their fists while chanting the now viscerally sickening phrase “Jer-ry!, Jer-ry!”, over and over again. Then it’s on to the guest with an issue being interviewed, followed by Springer announcing the ‘surprise’ guest and/or antagonist and/or victim in an effort to confront and/or reveal something to the initial guest…At that point…all hell was likely to break loose, and it did, a god awful litany of times. Rinse and repeat as the confrontation between the two guests would quickly devolve into a physical altercation and/or full scale street brawl, in studio. Always to be broken up by on-set security personnel, who were always ready as this was the ‘tradition’. If you are wondering where the entertainment value was, then you are a distinguished member of sane american, we congratulate you.

This freak show was the eventual by-product of the endless, and soulless search for higher television ratings. The move towards provocative (i.e. Sexual taboo) topics, proved to be a ratings bonanza. Sadly. It was geared towards our nations youth and they ate it up like…well you get it.  By the mid-1990’s show topics and guests had devolved into a carnival freak show atmosphere with no class to be found anywhere…on earth it seemed.  The sad irony was that Springer’s show and those like it proved to be extraordinary ratings successes, for years on end. For a few years it was the top-rated daytime talk show in the United States. Seriously, it really was. Gladly, we as a nation outgrew this horrific moment in television history, and lived to talk about it.