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For more than 30 years, John Kiesewetter has been the source for information about all things in local media – comings and goings, local people appearing on the big or small screen, special programs, and much more. Local media is still his beat and he’s bringing his interest, curiosity, contacts and unique style to Cincinnati Public Radio and 91.7 WVXU. Contact John at johnkiese@yahoo.com.

Jerry Springer retiring from TV 'while I'm still healthy'

Courtesy NBCUniversal
Jerry Springer debuted as "Judge Jerry" in fall 2019.

The former mayor of Cincinnati is ending his 40-year TV career with the cancellation of syndicated 'Judge Jerry' daytime TV show.

Case closed — for now.

Jerry Springer, who parlayed his Cincinnati City Council seat into a 40-year TV career as news anchor, talk show host and judge, says he "wants to try out retirement while I'm still healthy."

Springer, who turned 78 in February, is leaving TV because NBCUniversal has canceled his Judge Jerry daytime show after three seasons. The show will remain on the air until the TV year ends in September.

"I’m 78 and have been in front of the camera now for 40 years, plus 10 years in politics. I’m winding down," says Springer, who lives in Sarasota, Fla., with his wife Micki.

Courtesy NBCUniversal
The "Jerry Springer" daytime show, which premiered from Cincinnati in September 1991, stopped production in 2018.

"We taped Judge Jerry for the entire season, and I want to try out retirement while I’m still healthy," he says. He's looking forward to his 13-year-old grandson coming to Florida from Chicago for spring break this weekend with the Springer's daughter, Katie, and her husband Richard.

"Everybody calls me and says, 'Why don't you do this?' or 'Why don't you do this? (TV project).' But right now I'm just going to take a deep breath. And if something strikes my interest I might consider it.

"It's been a 50-year run of being such a public person. I'm looking forward to getting up in the morning" and not have a busy day filled with television production and promotion, he says.

"I don't have to make a living. I want to enjoy life," he says.

Springer came to Cincinnati in 1968 after earning a law degree from Northwestern University, and working on Sen. Robert Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign. After Kennedy's assassination, he joined a Cincinnati law firm, where he spearheaded Ohio's effort to lower the voting age from 21 to 18. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1970, won Cincinnati City Council seats in 1971 and 1973, then resigned in 1974 after being caught writing checks for sex. He ran again and won in 1975, and led the field in 1977 and was named mayor.

Courtesy WLWT-TV
A WLWT-TV advertisement for the Jerry Springer-Norma Rashid anchor team in the 1990 Cincinnati Reds yearbook.

Springer started his broadcasting career doing Springer Memorandum commentaries for WEBN-FM while on council. He left council in 1981 to run for Ohio governor in 1982, losing the Democratic primary to eventual governor Richard Celeste.

Later that year he left politics — although questions about his return to politics would dog him for decades — to become a political commentator for WLWT-TV in 1982.

Two years later, he was promoted to primary news co-anchor with Norma Rashid in 1984, while continuing to do a nightly on-air commentary. By 1987, the team of Springer, Rashid and weatherman Pat Barry was No. 1 in the 11 p.m. news ratings.

Springer remained Channel 5's primary male anchor when his Jerry Springer daytime talk show started at WLWT-TV on Sept. 30, 1991. At the time, Channel 5 was owned by Multimedia Entertainment, which produced Phil Donahue's popular Donahue syndicated daytime talk show and Sally Jesse Raphael.  

For his second season, in fall 1992, the Jerry Springer show moved to Chicago NBC affiliate WMAQ-TV in a deal which put the show on all NBC owned-and-operated stations. Springer commuted daily to continue anchoring Channel 5's late news — and reading a nightly commentary — until January 1993. By that time, Channel 5's 11 p.m. news ratings had fallen to third place.

Production for Jerry Springer later moved to New York, and then to Connecticut until it was canceled in 2018. His Judge Jerry show was taped at the same Stamford, Conn., studio complex.

Courtesy Jerry Springer show
A 1999 promotional photo for the "Jerry Springer" show when it was No. 1 in daytime ratings.

After he gave up anchoring TV news in 1993, the Springer show transitioned from dealing with serious family issues and political interviews into the outrageous relationship shows which made it so popular. Some of the Springer shows were so sleazy that WLWT-TV, his former employer, declined to broadcast some shows — like "I Married A Horse," or the woman who slept with more than 200 men in 10 hours.

By 1999, Springer was the nation’s No. 1 daytime series, and the first talk show to beat Oprah Winfrey in more than a decade. In 2002, Jerry Springer was No. 1 on TV Guide’s list of the "Worst Shows In The History Of Television.”

Springer fed his political appetite with a nationally syndicated radio show, sometimes hosted from Cincinnati, and doing a weekly podcast with old friend Jene Galvin at the Folk School Coffee Parlor in Ludlow, Ky. He also tried to do local news commentaries in Chicago in the 1990s, but they ended within one week.

Courtesy Jerry Springer show
Jerry Springer Show
A 1995 "Jerry Springer" show promotional photo when the show was taped in Chicago.

In fall of 2017, when he was entering what would be the final year of the Jerry Springer show, Springer was doing focus groups and attending fundraisers in Ohio as he considered entering the Democratic primary for Ohio governor in 2018. Springer has said many times before that he would not run for office while his daytime tabloid TV show was on the air. He decided not to run.

For three decades, Springer parlayed his daytime TV fame into competing on Dancing With The Stars, hosting America's Got Talent and a game show called Baggage, and making guest appearances on The Simpsons, Married… With Children, The X-Files, Roseanne, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! and playing himself in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me.

His trashy TV series also has inspired an opera.

"I'm very, very, very lucky and I realize I am, to have 40, 50 years of doing this," he says. "It's been a great life. It's a life of no regrets."

Well, maybe one.

"I've got to learn how to cook, to give Micki a day or two off. Otherwise, we'll starve," he jokes.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.