WITH NATPE IN FULL SWING, it’s time for a word of praise for the syndicated “Jerry Springer.”Most TV series depict the world as it should be; “Springer” portrays the world as it is. The guests are not attractive, rich or well educated; they usually have more hormones than brains, their tempers are wild and their lives are a mess. Perhaps for those reasons, it is an easy target: Critics and lawmakers inevitably cite the show when they lament the depths to which TV has sunk. A glamorous celeb complaining on a talkshow about paparazzi is totally acceptable; a poor woman complaining about her husband’s infidelity is considered tasteless. But since the time of Sophocles, audiences have wanted to see stories of other people’s passions and frailties. “Springer” is doing what theater and films have been doing for ages. It’s only a slight leap from “A Streetcar Named Desire,” for example, to “Jerry Springer.” And while “Springer” has been subjected to ongoing executive debates over how much violence should be depicted, Tennessee Williams had no such qualms. (Blanche DuBois and Stella Kowalski are seated at opposite ends of the stage.) Jerry Springer: Blanche, you’re staying in New Orleans with your sister and her husband. But you have something you want to tell Stella about the ancestral home. Blanche: Stella, my precious little sister … Stella for Star! (pause) The loss — the loss … Stella: We lost Belle Rive? No! Blanche: Yes, accuse me! But I stayed at Belle Rive and tried to hold it together! Where were you? In bed with your Polack! Audience: Whooooooo! Jerry: Let’s bring out Stanley! (Stanley enters, kisses Stella passionately. The audience whoops as Blanche looks uncomfortable.) Stanley: Now let’s cut the re-bop! Jerry, have you ever heard of the Napoleonic code? Stella, baby, it looks to me like you have been swindled! Stella: Stanley, you’re disgusting. Stanley: Don’t ever talk that way to me! (Stanley hits Stella. Pandemonium ensues onstage. The show’s security guys jump onstage to break it up.) Audience: Jer-REE! Jer-REE! Jer-REE! Blanche: My sister is going to have a baby! Audience: Woooaaahhhhh! (The bouncers shuffle Stella backstage.) Stanley: Stell-lahhhhh! Audience: Stell-LAH! Stell-LAH! Stell-LAH! Jerry: We’ll be right back. ***** Announcer: Tomorrow on ‘Jerry Springer’: My Boyfriend’s Family Is Always Dissing Me! A brief scene of the security men trying to break up a brawl between the Montagues and the Capulets. Romeo and Juliet look distressed. Mercutio (wounded): A plague o’ both your houses! (Back to the show) Jerry: Let’s bring out Mitch! (Applause) (Mitch kneels down in front of Blanche.) Mitch: You need somebody. And I need somebody, too. Could it be — you and me, Blanche? Blanche: Sometimes, there’s God — so quickly! Audience: Awwwww! Jerry: We’ll be right back. (Commercial break) Announcer: Do you suspect your uncle and mother murdered your father? If you’re feeling like a melancholy Dane, call 1-800-96-JERRY. (Back to the show) Jerry: Stanley, you had something you wanted to tell Mitch. Stanley: Yeah, Jerry. Mitch, you should know that Sister Blanche is no lily! She was practically told by the mayor of Laurel to get out of town! Audience: Whooo! (Stanley and Mitch begin to fight.) Audience: Jer-REE! Jer-REE! Jer-REE! Blanche: Jerry, I don’t want realism. I want magic! I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And if that is sinful, then let me be damned for it. (Audience applauds.) Blanche: Marry me, Mitch! Mitch: You’re not clean enough to bring in the house with my mother. (Cut to two young women in the audience laughing and poking each other in the ribs.) Stanley: I’ve been on to you from the start, Blanche! Sitting on your throne and swilling down my liquor! I say Ha! Ha! Do you hear me? Ha, ha, ha! (He moves toward her. Blanche smashes the end of a bottle and holds it threateningly at Stanley.) Stanley: So you want some roughhouse! Tiger — tiger! We’ve had this date with each other from the beginning! (Bodyguards separate everyone. The guy with the shaved head leads Blanche offstage.) Blanche: Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers. Springer: A few final thoughts here. Hollywood works on the snob system. But we’ve found out that there’s a fine line between great art and “trash TV.” And one more thing: When you visit relatives, don’t outstay your welcome. ‘Til next time, take care of yourself and each other.
Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more