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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Talk Show Scandals

Last week, I talked about Regis Philbin, and how he had a brilliant career in the field of television, and how his tenure in front of the camera broke records in the history of television broadcasting.

I think that part of the reason why this was the case with Regis was because of his charm and personality, and how he seemed so universally loved by the people who watched him on television for all those years.

Certainly there are a lot of daytime talk shows out there that have had the same impact that Regis' show had. You know the kind of shows that I mean, right? The ones that make a person feel good, make a person laugh, teaches people new things.

Of course everyone knows just how much of an impact the Oprah Winfrey show had in the world of daytime talk shows. For 25 years, Oprah was very much the queen of daytime television. The variety of guests (both celebrity and non-celebrity) she's had over the years, her book club, her Angel Network, even her own magazine and television network, it's hard to deny the impact that she's had in the world of talk. And yet, even the queen of daytime has had moments where she showed lapses of judgment and even controversy. Remember the whole controversy surrounding her refusing to eat meat because of the mad cow disease outbreak, and how she got negative publicity as a result of it?

Or, how about the moment when Oprah pulled out a little red wagon filled with all the fat she had lost back in 1988? Even Oprah herself had said that she regretted even doing it.

But hey, nobody is perfect, and for the most part, the scandals are just blips on an otherwise good show, and the hosts and shows move past it.

But then there are talk shows that seem to be filled with one scandal filled story after another, and the incidents can be talked about for weeks. Names get dragged through the mud, and people's reputations are ruined, and as you'll read on, some people can sometimes even pay with their lives.

This blog posting is all about some of the biggest scandals to have ever happened on the stage of American talk shows. Some are somewhat exaggerated, and some have ended on a light note, but there are some instances where feelings have been hurt, and some people have had tragic fates happen to them.

So, to kick off this blog entry, I thought I'd start with the light-hearted and make my way towards the heavy-handed stuff. Oh, and I will be offering up my own commentary about these scandals as well. And keep in mind that I'm going under the assumption that these stories are real and not fabricated, because we all know that talk shows NEVER make up stories to attract ratings, right?


At any rate, let's begin.


It was November 2006 on the Live With Regis And Kelly show, and Regis was off for the day. Kelly's special co-host for the day was American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken, and for a while there, the two seemed to get along well.

That is until during an interview with one of the Dancing With The Stars couples, Clay decided it would be great fun to cover Kelly's mouth with his hand.

A move that Kelly did not appreciate or like. She made it very clear that it was a no-no, saying that she didn't know where that hand had been.

To be perfectly honest, I think this was sort of blown out of proportion for a number of reasons. To be fair, I think Clay was only trying to be playful, and had no idea that he was offending Kelly when he did that. And, I can also see where Kelly was coming from, because I don't know if I necessarily would have wanted to have had my mouth covered up in that way.

But here's where the controversy comes in. Clay Aiken kind of poked fun at the whole situation, and made a bit of light out of it. Kelly, on the other hand was sort of thrown to the wolves with media outlets pointing out all the times that Kelly covered Regis' mouth on the show. And then somehow, Rosie O'Donnell, who was a co-host on The View at the time outright accused Kelly Ripa of being homophobic (even though Aiken hadn't officially come out as gay at the time of the show). It was then that Kelly fought back.

What a right mess that was, wasn't it? But, in the long run, I doubt this incident really hurt Kelly's reputation all that much. Rosie on the other hand...well...

ROSIE VS. MAGNUM P.I. (May 1999)

The date was May 19, 1999. Almost one month since the deadly school shooting at Columbine High School that left a teacher and several students dead. As a result of this tragedy, Rosie became a huge advocate of gun control, and was a major figure in the Million Mom March, a movement to keep guns out of the hands of the youth and criminals. This would have been fine if Rosie could have separated her beliefs from her job as host of The Rosie O'Donnell Show from 1996-2002.

But then Tom Selleck came on the show on that date to promote his new film, The Love Letter. It was supposed to have been a light-hearted interview about the movie. But Tom Selleck was also a huge supporter of the National Rifle Association (also known as the NRA), and well, that kind of conflicted with Rosie's gun control beliefs. This is a clip of that 1999 interview.

You know, I'm just gonna come out and say it. I thought Rosie was way out of line here. I know that at the time, the Columbine incident had just happened, and that the wounds and the anger was still fresh on people's minds, but when a guest goes on your show to promote a project that they starred in, and are attacked on a stance that differs from the way they think, it's a bit off-putting. In that moment, Rosie's reputation as being the “Queen Of Nice” may have been forever tarnished. And just eight years later, Rosie would get into another argument on another talk show.


I know it seems that I'm unfairly attacking Rosie O'Donnell in this blog, I really don't mean to. And besides, in this case, I have to say that the person that Rosie was feuding with this time around came off worse than she did. Not necessarily because I agree or disagree with what they said, but because I thought lines were crossed.

Rosie O'Donnell, after ending her own talk show, became one of the moderators of The View in 2006. It was made clear that Rosie was only going to be on the show for one season. During that one season, Rosie's outspoken nature certainly got her all kinds of attention (both positive and negative), but it also got ratings. But Rosie's liberal nature severely clashed with the conservative stance of Elisabeth Hasselbeck (who some may know as being the fourth place finisher in the second season of Survivor).

And on May 23, 2007, it all came to a boiling point.

That incident would mark the end of Rosie's tenure on The View, as Rosie ended up ending her contract earlier than expected (she was originally scheduled to air right through the summer), and the fight between Elisabeth and Rosie divided the media, with the left-wing thinkers siding with Rosie, and the right-wingers on Team Elisabeth. I just thought the whole brouhaha was just incredibly tacky to be honest with you, and yeah, Rosie said some things that I personally didn't agree with, but then so did Elisabeth. Knowing that Rosie and Donald Trump were feuding at the time, I thought it was kind of a low blow for Elisabeth to use that as a way to defend herself against Rosie's allegations. In fact, to tell you the truth, I kind of lost respect for both of these women in those six minutes. Absolutely shameful that it got to that point.


I can remember a time in which Maury Povich once had a decent show. He once dealt with real people with real human interest topics. I can remember one show he did way back in the early 1990s where he interviewed all the voice actors of classic cartoons. That was great television. Interesting television.

But now, I just hate his show completely. It's just so trashy, and ridiculous, and I'm guessing the show is now with 65% more fabrication. Or, at least, I HOPE it's fake, because I can't imagine anyone really being as STUPID as any of his guests over the last five years or so.

On any given week of shows, about 4 out of the five episodes will deal with people who are trying to find the birth fathers of their children. 

The other random show is usually spent on rehabilitating controlling husbands, sending teens to boot camp, or trying to guess whether people are born male or female.

I'm not kidding either.

But anyway, on some of these shows, you have a woman who is distraught because she can't find her baby's father. I'm talking yelling, screaming, crying, the whole nine yards.

Because she KNOWS! She is TWO HUNDRED per cent sure that the 13th man she's testing is her baby's daddy! TWO HUNDRED! Wow, she must be right.


I tell you, sometimes with the reactions of these paternity tests, the toddlers act more mature than their supposed parents. Again, this is absolute trash television. I mean, even if the show was scripted, I don't find this to be very entertaining whatsoever, and Maury should really be ashamed of himself.

JERRY, JERRY, JERRY!!! (1991-present)

Certainly when you think of fist fights at the drop of a hat, you think Jerry Springer. Of course, Jerry was hardly the first one to have such fights on his television show. Geraldo Rivera and Morton Downey Jr. were all in the talk show fisticuff business long before Jerry Springer came around. Jerry Springer himself was no stranger to controversy, infamously losing his seat on the Cincinnati city council after it was revealed that he once hired a prostitute. Although he did get his seat back, and became mayor of Cincinnati in the late 1970s, his quest to become governor of Ohio was a failure as a result of his past dalliances with a prostitute.

In 1991, Jerry Springer got his own talk show, and it was very similar to shows like Donahue and Sally Jesse Raphael, in that Jerry would talk about politically-oriented subjects. But by 1994, with a change in producers, Jerry's show would soon become the show in which guests attacked each other with chairs, women tore off their shirts to get 'Jerry Beads', and guests like members of the Ku Klux Klan were frequent guests. Of course, Jerry being of Jewish heritage, and having racist guests on his show, you're bound to see sparks fly.

Jerry Springer's show is still on the air after 20 years, and some are left wondering how the heck it managed to stick around so long. One thing I can honestly say about the show is that watching it does make me feel better about my own life and times though, and I think that a lot of other people feel that way.

And Jerry Springer's show is sort of linked to the final topic I wish to discuss, as in 2002, the sons of a former guest filed a lawsuit against the show after the guest was murdered in 2000 by her ex-husband. The sons claimed that the show  created a mood that lead to murder.

And this final example is what can happen when a talk show appearance goes terribly wrong.


Remember the Jenny Jones show? It was hosted by Canadian born talk show host, Jenny Jones, and many of the shows I would classify as being a lot of mindless fluff. It certainly wasn't as punch-happy as Springer, but it wasn't fluffy tripe like you'd see on Live With Regis and Kelly either. Most of the shows Jenny did were about makeovers, and telling girls to stop dressing sexy, and confronting former bullies. You know, things like that.

On March 6, 1995, Jenny Jones taped a show entitled “Same Sex Secret Crushes”. The title basically described the show. People coming clean with their feelings towards a member of the same sex. Feelings that they kept to themselves.

A man named Scott Amedure appeared on the show, eager to confess the fact that he had a crush on his best friend, Jonathan Schmitz. At first, when the news came out, Schmitz appeared to be taking it all in stride, laughing about it with the audience, and joking around with Jenny Jones.

Three days later, Scott Amedure was dead. Murdered. The killer? Jonathan Schmitz. Turns out he wasn't quite as okay with the revelation that his best friend was in love with him, and he decided that his former friend had to go.

Schmitz was arrested for the murder, and in response to the shooting, the producers of the Jenny Jones show decided not to air the episode, with Jenny Jones appearing at the beginning of each episode following the shooting explaining the situation and how they were not planning to show the episode.

In 1996, Schmitz was convicted of second-degree murder, despite his defense team stating that he had a history of mental illness. An appeal was filed, and his conviction was briefly overturned, but when he was retried, he was found guilty of murder once again. He is now serving a 25-50 year sentence.

In 1999, Amedure's family sued The Jenny Jones Show, Telepictures, and Warner Brothers for Amedure's wrongful death at the hand of the show's negligence and ambush tactics used that they felt got the ball rolling. In May 1999, the Amedure family was awarded twenty-five million dollars as a settlement after a jury found that the show was both irresponsible and negligent, intentionally creating an explosive and volatile situation without any regard for any consequences.

It was a dark day for the show, and for the host herself. Just four years after the Amedure family won their lawsuit, the Jenny Jones show went off the air for good.

One could say that the tragedy could have been avoided. One could also say that the show made the tragedy happen. But either way, it is a sad instance in which one show ended up ruining several lives.

And for what? Ratings?

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