Smack’s back on ‘Springer’

Show comes out swinging in ratings ring

The “Jerry Springer Show” is giving itself a swift kick in the July sweep.

Connoisseurs and critics alike are buzzing about a not-so-subtle shift in the tone of the syndie talkshow over the past two weeks.

Simply put, the fire is back. Along with the hair-pulling, shoe-throwing and you-talkin’-to-me? shoving matches that propelled the show to the top of the Nielsen charts earlier this year.

“We’ve got to stop this problem before it gets out of hand,” said Vince Clark, assistant to the Rev. Michael Pfleger of Chicago’s Community of St. Sabina church, on Friday. The media-savvy pastor led the “Dump Jerry Springer” protest in Chi in spring that finally yielded a pledge from “Springer” distrib Studios USA to “eliminate” all physical violence from the show as of June 8.

The “Springer” segs that have continued to top the talkshow ratings chart since then have mostly been hastily edited reruns that clumsily replaced the body blows with audience reaction shots.

For the onset last week of the July ratings period, “Springer” has whipped out a batch of episodes canned before the Chi-based talkshow went on production hiatus in May. They’re rougher than the most recent batch of reruns, but not as quite brutal as those that ignited the ire of culture vultures and many others earlier this year.

Reps for the show and the studio, now the domain of USA Networks boss Barry Diller, are under orders from the top not to comment on the “Springer” brouhaha.

And while the protests may heat up again, one thing’s for sure : The hard-core fans applaud “Springer’s” return to form.

“Yippeeee!” posted “Phyliss” on the newsgroup in cyberspace late last week. “There’s nothing I like more than drinking a Diet Coke and watching those guests battle it out.”

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