Feder: When Chicago plumbed the depths of trash TV

  • "The Jerry Springer Show" was the king of trash TV in the 1990s.

    "The Jerry Springer Show" was the king of trash TV in the 1990s. Courtesy of NBC Universal

  • Talk show host Geraldo Rivera suffered a broken nose when a chair was thrown at him during a melee on his show.

    Talk show host Geraldo Rivera suffered a broken nose when a chair was thrown at him during a melee on his show. Associated Press, 1988

  • Daily Herald media columnist Robert Feder is interviewed for a new Vice documentary on 1990s trash TV.

    Daily Herald media columnist Robert Feder is interviewed for a new Vice documentary on 1990s trash TV. Courtesy of Robert Feder

 
 
Updated 7/15/2021 6:16 AM

Chicagoans are justifiably proud of their role in propelling Oprah Winfrey to national stardom and serving as hometown boosters of her phenomenally popular and socially conscious talk show for more than 25 years.

But many of us would prefer to forget a more shameful side of Chicago's recent past as the daytime talk show capital of America. For the better part of a decade, Chicago also was an incubator for the worst excesses of trash TV -- from mindlessness to mayhem -- culminating in an off-screen murder of one guest by another.

 

"Trash TV: Dirty and Deadly Talk," a one-hour documentary debuting at 9 p.m. today on the Vice cable network, takes a critical look back at an ugly era in pop culture and media. It's the premiere episode of "Dark Side of the 90s," a 10-part series billed as "a deep dive into the decade's untold history, revealing secrets and perspectives."

In the heyday of the genre, dozens of Oprah wannabes competed for viewers -- with the vast majority of them emanating from production studios in Chicago. As the stakes grew higher and the competition fiercer, tabloid talk hosts such as Jenny Jones and Geraldo Rivera veered into more outlandish and sensational topics.

None was more notorious than "The Jerry Springer Show," which originated for most of its 27-year run from NBC Tower in Chicago. TV Guide once listed it at the top of "the worst TV shows of all time" -- a distinction the show's producers took as a compliment.

Get the full report, and more Chicago media news, at robertfeder.com.

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