Are Reality Shows like 'The Jerry Springer Show' Real or Fake?
Let me start out this article by explaining that I am no stranger to being on television. I was a child model for a toy company and then appeared on television for the next 20 years in various shows, music videos, online videos, newspapers, and more.
So let's get into my personal experience with reality TV.
I was first contacted by a popular reality television show in late 2011 or very early 2012. What had happened was that I had listed a large-bust mannequin for sale on Craigslist. This mannequin was purchased for my retail store, but her skin tone wasn't fit for my lighting and the position of her arms didn't work for my needs. So the decision was made to sell her.
After the posting was made, I was contacted by a popular show which involves the pawning of items. At first I was very excited. I thought this would be a great opportunity for myself and my store to get publicity, and the woman I spoke to made me believe that this was an excellent opportunity. We continued to negotiate over several phone calls, but as the calls continued, I became more skeptical. It brought to mind some aspects of how The Jerry Springer Show operates.
Is 'The Jerry Springer Show' Staged?
The whole encounter sounded similar to what I've heard about the authenticity of The Jerry Springer Show. The show initially started out as being more serious as it focused on political discussions and issues that were more mundane such as family reunions. It eventually shifted to more provocative topics, such as men finding out their girlfriends were men or women complaining about the infidelity of their spouses. The show saw a spike in ratings with its trademark fights and audiences chanting "Jer-ry!, Jer-ry!"
So is the show real or fake? It is actually a little bit of both. People are able to call the show to inquire if they can be guests. They need to have some type of story they can sell. The raunchier it is, the more likely the show will book you. The show looks for stories involving multiple people so there can be potential for fistfights. Producers have claimed that they screen people to ensure guests are legitimate. However, some former guests have revealed that this is not the case as they fabricated their stories to get on the show. They report that the show producers basically had a sort of don't ask, don't tell-like policy when it came to the stories they received. Some guests have reported that producers try to make their stories more exaggerated for the camera. So a story on the show may be authentic but it can be blown up to be more dramatic. Other guests have admitted that they were actors and the show created their narratives and relationships.
A Typical Conflict on the Show
Are 'Jerry Springer' Fights Real or Fake?
The fights on the show are a little less than genuine. If a conflict on the show is real, then there may be real hostility between guests. However, guests have reported that the fights are basically staged. Producers will encourage guests to fight and will actually coach them on when to do it. The guests are informed on how the show wants them to behave. A careful eye can spot that these scuffles can look choreographed as they seem to occur on cue, notably when Jerry is out of the way.
Guests have reported that they sign a waiver before going on the show, so they pretty much know what they'll be getting into beforehand. This also explains why no one on the show ever faces assault charges.
Do You Get Paid Being on 'The Jerry Springer Show?'
Guests aren't exactly paid for their appearance on the show but there are some perks. The show will pay for their travel and hotel. Guests also receive a small stipend during their stay. The main appeal of being on the show is getting your 15 minutes of fame.
Who Is the Best Talk Show Host?
My Phone Calls with Reality TV Producers/Coordinators
I was already hearing the Jerry chants as I spoke to these producers. The first few calls went great. I was under the genuine assumption that I was going to appear on television wearing my merchandise (tees and yoga pants) and selling my mannequin. As negotiations continued, things became even more sketchy.
- Since the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Awareness event was taking place the following month in Detroit, MI (the same place as the filming of this show), I clearly stated to the coordinator/producer that I would like to do something that has never been done on a pawn show. I wanted both parties agreeing to donate 100% to Susan G. Komen. Whatever their bid was for the large breasted mannequin, my store would personally match it. It seemed very fitting being that the show would be based on the mannequins amazingly large bust and Susan G. Koeman is a huge advocate for fundraising for breast cancer. I was willing to give away the mannequin (approximately $300 in value plus shipping) in exchange for both the pawn show and my company helping bring awareness to an exceptional cause. Of course, I also wanted to wear my logo on TV. My idea was promptly declined. I was quite confused as to why any business wouldn't want to support such a great cause.
- After my offer was declined, things got even more strange. I was very clear that I did not need to pawn this mannequin. I did not want to come across as broke nor look like an idiot. I explained that my business is literally named after me and that my reputation in the community means everything to me. At that time I was informed I was not allowed to wear any clothing with my logo. If I even mentioned my stores name or location, then the show producers may (will) edit it out.
- I was then told I had to sign waivers in regard to my appearance, which basically stated that the show had the right to make me appear however they choose in a way that would be best for ratings.
I saw some similarities with my experience to The Jerry Springer Show. I realized that the pawn show wanted me to have similar complaints to guests often seen on Jerry's show.
I had statements from coordinators/show producers telling me:
- Can you be dramatic?
- We can't control what happens.
- We can't guarantee anything.
- We will be editing the footage so it fits into prime time television.
I had no interest in my name being tarnished, my words being altered, or being made to look like a perv. The last thing I needed was for a nationally televised show to make me look like some kind of weirdo.
The End of My Reality TV Experience
I politely declined the offer to be made to look like a total moron for ratings. Ironically, a very good business associate of mine had also listed some of his items on Craigslist (which consisted of very rare pieces of history, per say). By accident, through conversation, I discovered that he too was also contacted by the same show and had the exact same conversations (minus the desire to donate to charity). Both of us agreed that there was absolutely no benefit for either of us to appear on the show without any guarantee of...anything. In addition, neither of us were interested in participating in drama, physical or verbal fighting, or being portrayed in a bad light to get the show ratings. We have both worked very hard to be assets to our communities and build our businesses. Please keep in mind that we never contacted this show looking for help of any kind.
Should you consider being on reality shows like Jerry Springer? I guess it all comes down to how much is your reputation is worth. If you feel that being portrayed as potentially anything like a racist, a fool, or a psycho, then you may want to consider taking your shot at your 15 seconds of fame. Just keep in mind that whatever you do publicly will be with you forever.