Advertising HOF – WIF Consumer Corner

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Advertising Campaign

Hall Of Fame

It might seem hard to believe for many people, but commercials are a cherished part of the pop culture landscape. As much as viewers are willing to pay extra fees to stream movies and television shows without ad breaks, commercial compilations are still extremely popular on YouTube and catchphrases from them are as likely to enter the zeitgeist (“Where’s the beef?”) as anything from the best programming. The sheer amount of market share or public interest that they can generate when they’re done right is staggering. The commercials here might not be some of your favorites, but for the companies behind their creation, they were golden geese. Sometimes that was the case for years, or even decades.

 10. GEICO Cavemen

In 2004 the auto insurance giant GEICO aired a commercial where the joke was that an announcer said saving money with their insurance was “so easy a caveman could do it!” This offended the caveman that was working with the crew for the shoot as a boom operator, causing him to yell “not cool!” and storm off the set. As the concept of political correctness was at the time, and continues to be, a hot button issue, the small joke struck such a chord with audiences that variations on the premise of easily offended, urbane cavemen were made by GEICO for the next three years even though the initial plan for the campaign was to only make three commercials about offended cavemen.They became such runaway successes that in 2007 Joe Lawson, the writer that started the whole phenomenon, joined forces with directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck to sell ABC on a series for the cavemen. The series was not a hit with critics or audiences, but it was still much more than a one-off joke that you’d expect to be skipped or fast-forwarded through could ever reasonably hope for.

9. Erin – Esurance

In 2004, with a fairly meager budget of $60,000 (in an industry where commercials average about$350,000), a marketer named Kimberly Brewe hired three independent animators to create a female agent for auto insurance who fought thugs on rooftops and infiltrated secret headquarters. Within five years she had been featured in 30 commercials on national television and made the up and coming Esurance a household name even though there’d been no brand awareness of Esurance before that ad campaign.

Esurance received actual fan mail for the character almost immediately after test broadcasts were made in Sacramento. It was a strong indication of just how much the cartoon character connected with audiences since, in 2004, action heroines were more of a novelty. Unfortunately, some would argue that she ended up connecting with audiences a bit too much. Foremost among those making that argument would be Esurance itself, whose management cancelled the character in 2010 when it was learned that she was a popular character in online pornography.

8. “It’s Only a Movie…”

Wes Craven’s 1972 debut film Last House on the Left is one of the most influential, if not really celebrated, horror films ever made. It was a mainstream success with more graphic, disturbing content than almost any film from its time and ushered in a wave of more intense horror movies, even though it’s so badly made that Craven disowned it after moving on to hits like
Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream. What really made Last House on the Left a hit was its memorable ad campaign, with a trailer that told the audience that to avoid fainting they would have to tell themselves, “It’s only a movie, only a movie, only a movie, only a movie” while showing relatively little footage.As film critic Joe Reid explained, it was an especially effective ad because of a combination of sheer confidence in telling the audience that they’d need to “distance” themselves from the action onscreen to be able to keep watching it at all, and the lack of information about the plot left audiences more intrigued. Shame it couldn’t have been used in the service of promoting a better movie.

7. Carl’s Jr.’s Racy Ads

In one of the highest profile examples of the notion that there’s no bad publicity in advertising, Carl’s Jr.’s sexually provocative Super Bowl ads began in 2006 with an ad featuring Paris Hiltonwashing a car and quickly got more ridiculous. This promotional campaign has been a boon for supermodels such as Kate Upton and Charlotte McKinney, who owed much of their subsequent careers to pretending to eat burgers in a suggestive manner or while dressed in very revealing ways. It’s also been a source of considerable irritation for people who believe the ads demean women.

CEO Andy Puzder claimed that the publicity brought by the commercials saved a fast food companythat, before the sexual ad campaign, was on the brink of bankruptcy. Puzder also pointed out that the ads are no more graphic than the covers of magazines. Whatever the truth of that, in March 2017 Carl’s Jr. so completely changed their marketing campaign that they made a commercial explicitly denouncing their previous advertisements. Allegedly the change in direction was because Millennials are more concerned by the healthiness of their food than they are titillated by relatively tame commercials when the internet exists.

6. Verizon’s Test Man

There may be no statement that seems less likely to launch someone to fame than, “Can you hear me now? Good.” Still, in 2002, cell phone coverage was limited enough that being unsure about getting reception depending on where you were standing was a sentiment the average telecommunications customer understood. So when Verizon began airing commercials that year featuring Paul Marcarelli just repeating that same question and answer over and over in a variety of locations to illustrate how thoroughly Verizon was allegedly expanding its coverage, people responded to it in a big way. USA Today reported in 2004 that the campaign had aided in a 10% boost to Verizon’s customers the first year and a 15% one on the second. It even was credited with dropping their customer turnover rate by over 25%.

For all that, it was a very mixed blessing for Marcarelli himself. Since he was famous almost exclusively for asking the same question over and over (despite being a successful screenwriter) inevitably people on the street hounded him over it for years, even at a funeral. In 2016 he went over to the rival telecommunications company Sprint in commercials that claimed that basically all carriers offered equally good services. It must have been very gratifying for him to be allowed to say anything other than the same six words.

5. Maytag Repairman

It’s amazing how long a simple joke can play out in the world of television commercials with very minor variations. In 1967, Jesse White played a senior repairman for Maytag appliances dressing down his trainees. The joke of the commercial was that they never got any work in their jobs because Maytag products never needed to be repaired. It’s at least good for a smirk, but audiences so enjoyed it that White played the part 60 times over the next 22 years. The role later went to Gordon Jump, famous for his role on WKRP in Cincinnati and that one episode of Diff’rent Strokes in which he played a pedophile. Yeah, that happened. Jump played the role of the Maytag Repairman from 1989 until 2003.

Somehow, interest in the Maytag Repairman built back up until the character was resurrected, played now by Colin Ferguson, who you may recognize as the star of Eureka or from his role on The Vampire Diaries, and who took up the mantle in 2014. A study by the Maytag company found in 2011 that 85% of those surveyed recognized the character and 18% considered him one of their favorite characters, demonstrating just how much the simplest ideas can be the most successful.

4. The Most Interesting Man in the World

In 2006, Jonathan Goldsmith was hired to promote Dos Equis brand beer. He didn’t so much play a character as he embodied a persona: A man who was the embodiment of worldliness, sophistication, and experience to such an absurd degree that his life experiences became wordplay (e.g. the commercial’s narrator saying that “his two cents is worth $37.”) He went truly viral on sites such as Reddit. Thousands of posts were made of an image of him with text superimposed over it that paraphrased his catchphrase “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The campaign meant four straight years of growth for Dos Equis, including one year where it shot up 26%.

Touchingly, Goldsmith was able to parlay his internet appeal for very noble causes. In 2014, he reached out to Reddit, among other sites, to promote efforts to remove landmines from Cambodia. Other charities he has supported include Free Art for Abused Children and the tiger protection group the Sabre Foundation. Maybe this doesn’t make him the most interesting man in the world, but it sure doesn’t hurt.

3. Speedy the Alka Seltzer Boy

You might think an anthropomorphic Alka-Seltzer tablet or a customer with indigestion would be the ideal mascot for the antacid. Indeed, one commercial featuring a man yelling “Mamma mia! That’s a spicy meatball!” spawned an enduring catchphrase. But Alka-Seltzer’s first approach was to make a cherub-faced, red-headed child named Speedy in 1952. By the time the character’s initial run ended in 1964, he had been featured in 212 commercials and appeared opposite such stars as silent film legend Buster Keaton, rendered both in 2D and in stop motion.

But the character seemed to keep coming back. In 1980 he was featured in a commercial for the Winter Olympics. Then the character was rebooted in 2008 because he was “retro cool.” Oddly, the publications the ads were featured in were skin magazines Maxim and Playboy, which don’t feel like the most natural fit for this kind of character.

2. How Many Licks

If you are a television viewer of a certain age, it’s pretty much impossible for you to have not seen this cartoon commercial that first aired in 1969. In the initial, minute long version, a human boy walks up to three animals and asks them how many licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop before being told to ask the owl. As you know, the owl licks it three times, then bites it before concluding the answer is “three.”

Instead of being remade or having spinoff commercials, the cartoon itself was so popular that rather than remake it or do variations, it was merely shortened to just a turtle and the owl and then rerun for decades. The silly central question was so firmly imprinted on the public consciousness that several colleges, such as New York University, and independent study groups found time to determine the answer for themselves. The current accepted answer is approximately one thousand.

1. Honda’s Cog Commercial

Not many commercials have ever instilled a sense of wonder in viewers. In 2003 Honda pulled it off with an elaborate commercial for their Accord model that featured a very elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that had audiences everywhere saying, “that had to be fake.” But the truth was that aside from digitally cutting two takes together, it was completely live action. It just happened to take six months of planning and a week-long shoot with a staggering six hundred takes to get every extremely precise reaction right.

The doubtless extremely frustrating work paid off handsomely when the commercial quadrupled Honda’s web traffic and tripled outreach to their contact center. This was in no small part because there was so much controversy over whether the commercial was done for real or not that Snopeshad to write an article vouching for it. But good luck convincing any company to not do something like this with CGI today.


Advertising HOF

– WIF Consumer Corner

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 233

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 233

…Matchmaking is rampant… on either end of the Milky Way…

“We are going to have the biggest wedding that Houston has ever seen!”

“Have you told Mom?” He speaks of the former First Lady of the United States of America, now Director of Programming for The Space Channel. “And I bet Braden doesn’t know his ranch is going to be overrun?”

“No, but she hasn’t told her parents either.” Equal opportunity ignorance.

Gus McKinney has struck relationship-gold in the person of a bright, talented, drop-dead gorgeous, and most importantly girl of a fine Irish family.

“I don’t know about the McDonalds, but I know Francine will be thrilled; she introduced you to Mindy, correct?” Matchmaking is rampant… on either end of the Milky Way.

“Yes, on that same Christmas Eve evening, only at the Space Channel party, not the one where Maddox blew a gasket. She was about ready to leave when I got there, but Mom was hanging on to her for dear life.”

“Yeah, all of the sudden you disappeared from the great Galvy bash. You missed Braden doing karaoke.”

“I took a call from Mom at midnight and I promised I would drop by, she told me there was someone she wanted me to meet. I thought they wanted to interview me about the test flight.”

“S-n-e-a-k-y, I bet will be hearing that story for forever!”

0200 has made it daily appearance and this time it is Gus who insists that he should hit the hay. He has two things to dream about:

  1. A safe flight out to planetoid Pluto and back
  2. Mindy McDonald will be waiting when he gets back

THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 233


page 274

Contents TRT

 

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 173

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 173

…Roy Crippen usually avoids questions asked during the chaos of travel, but he cannot resist this shot at a GLOBAL NETWORK news-byte…

Before Roy can ask if he can use that last line in his upcoming speech, the casino doorman has the rear hatch open, unleashing a flood of LED flashes from the waiting photojournalists. Of all the things that are hard for Roy to get used to, this moment is it. The transition from private to public, in the blink of a squinting eye has that movie star feel, when he actually considers himself a director.

Again, his image-shaping partner proves her value. Years in front of camera and mic has prepared her for this time in the sun, making sure it rubs off on Roy, even if it has to be applied daily.

Despite having survived the failure/destruction of Space Colony 1 {and the subsequent loss of two dear friends in the process}, the hard-fought nominating battles, and the withering attention, his demographics are favorable and polling numbers are on course with a bullet.

“Mr. Crippen,” yells an aggressive young female CNN reporter who manages to ace out her more considerate colleagues. “What is your reaction to Sylvia Freelove’s claim that you bullied the President into those deadly attacks on United Korea and Talibanistan?”

Roy usually avoids questions asked during the chaos of travel, but he cannot resist this shot at a GLOBAL NETWORK news-byte.

“To tell you the truth Miss,” the moving mass stops moving to hear his rebuttal, “I had not heard that one and it is that kind of misinformation I am determined to put an end to. Ask the Joint Chiefs if I managed to bully them first?

“And wasn’t it Ms. Freelove’s boss who took all the credit for the idea, only after it was obvious that the United Korean Peninsula was behind the Space Colony calamity? Or that he is leading the charge against Space Colony II? Space Colony II will be a reality when I am elected.”

“Then what about your conciliatory stance toward Korea? I don’t understand the disconnect?”

Candidate Crippen launches into a spontaneous analogy.

“I had/haven’t seen my cousin Harold, a nasty spoiled city boy, who came to visit my family’s house one summer….

… READ THE REST OF ROY’S  HEARTWARMING STORY TOMORROW…


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 173


page 209

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 147

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 147

..When it seemed like he wouldn’t let her go, his European Police Siren ringtone lets the whole area know that he has an incoming call. Upon seeing the I.D….

“Thank you and good day.”

Francine backs away from the podium, turning toward a stage left exit, when a cry comes out from the crowd, “Miss Bouchette!!! Is it true that you left KHST in Houston in violation of your “sweetheart” contract?” He must be a friend of her former fiancée.

Nowheresville USA from Kasey Musgraves

This voice is antithetical to the previous 30 queries, antagonistic, from the middle of the mulling transcriptional troubadours. She was going to ignore the provocation and continue on, but chooses not to retreat from the cowardly question asked when the lights have been doused and attentions have shifted… by someone she recognizes.

“If I am not mistaken Mr. Loyd, with one L, weren’t you under contract when you left Nowheresville, Arkansas for the greener pastures of the Dallas market six years ago?”

The man’s self-righteous grin is inverted to a frown as he slithers toward the door, while other reporters in the know inherit his smile. Pockets of applause erupt from those remaining to witness Francine’s rapier wit.

In the wings, Roy exhibits delight for Francine, fully aware of the awkward position he has asked of her. She is more relieved than pleased, but accepts his warm embrace.

Image result for police siren gifWhen it seemed like he wouldn’t let her go, his European Police Siren ringtone lets the whole area know that he has an incoming call. Upon seeing the I.D., “You’ll want to take a seat for this one.”

He makes the caller {the President} wait five rings and clears his throat, preparing for a preemptive strike lobbed all the way from the Hawkeye State, “Your Press Secretary delivered a real snow-job at that presser, which was nothing more than an advertisement for funding of a second space colony, Director Crippen. I think they would be more interested in the incompetent handling of the New Mayflower Incident!”, Pedro “Pete” Sanchez blusters in his best  back-seat bravado!

“Mr. President Sir, we are talking about a clear matter of self-defense and protecting the World Space Consortium’s investments from the jealous actions of rogue nations.”

Francine could not possibly guess what Roy is about to tell the leader of the free world, of all people.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 147


page 181

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 129

…The Air Jamaica aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport, not being a very long flight, they barely get above 20,000 feet

20000 ft by Photojournalist Rdiger Nehmzow

Old Francine

— “Do you possibly have an open seat somewhere — you know what I mean?” she points and whispers to a flight attendant to escape her sweaty human sandwich. “What is the holdup Miss?”

Old Francine would have thrown an absolute fit and shouted her way off the plane, accomplishing absolutely nothing except drawing undue attention to her disrespectful derrière.

New Francine

“We are under a security alert, something going on to the west, sort of like a red light in the sky.” A loaded passenger plane sitting on the taxiway for two hours is borderline cruel and unusual. “We just had a single window seat, 3A open up, why don’t we move you up?”

New Francine asks for the attendant’s name, “I will be writing a letter praising your service to Air Jamaica, thank you.”

Just after staking her claim at the front of the jet, the calming voice of the Captain fills the cabin, “Good afternoon passengers of Air Jamaica Flight 217 nonstop to Related imageHouston Texas. We will be taking off shortly and we thank you for your patience. The stewardesses will be handing out complimentary beverages.”

“If he weren’t the oldest pilot in the fleet, I would be offended.”

“At least he didn’t call you an airplane waitress…I’ll have a vodka rocks please,” Francine relates her similar story of having been introduced, early in her career, in a pre-sweeps station promo, as anchor-girl Francine Bushel.

The jet aircraft lifts up and away from the seaside airport. It is not a very long flight and they barely get above 20,000 feet, but the view from her window is nonstop fantastic, with Cuba fading into background of the azure Gulf-blue waters and the familiar soil and foliage of the Gulf Coast states rising to the north.

Like tiny islands, oil drinking platforms dot the water below, but one in particular seems to be the hub of activity. She reaches down to her carry-on to retrieve her trusty pair of field glasses, every good reporter has one, and gets a 20x power view of the action. She pulls back, rubs her eyes to make sure she isn’t seeing things, the one thing being the familiar blue & white paint scheme of Roy’s helicopter; blades idling, atop the one acre pedestal. There are a good thirty-odd people mulling about, many of whom belong to that huge Coast Guard cutter lashed to the side.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 129


page 159

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

…And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone…

Image result for lawrence welk bubbles

 

Today’s Episode brought to you by Lawrence Welk

— When sleep finally comes to her and him, it is deep and long.

In the dim light of day, Roy untangles an arm that has been wrapped around Francine like a twist tie and looks for his PDA to see if he had set the alarm. His device reads 9A which opposes the noon-like high blue sky. He chooses to trust the earlier time, so no need to rush cuddling time.

Tick-tock-tick-tock and ten o’clock causes him to stir. His restless movement alerts his bed-buddy, who prevents his escape by employing the old kiss-tummy-to-neck trick. It works.

“And where do you think you’re going mister?”

The acid test for beauty is the morning wake-up. Without makeup, jewelry and clothes or shower, contacts and hair gel, is the way God intended adult men & women to see each other. Francine is a solid A Image result for grade athrough Roy’s eyes and Roy rates an A-, because he sleeps like he is weightless {all over the place}, but that is why the king-sized bed was invented.

“We are burning daylight and we don’t want people to get the wrong impression.”

“We are on vacation, the rest of the world can be damned,” she brags, playfully running her fingers through the hair on his chest, yes chest. “How is it you are so tan?”

“I have a small boat on the Gulf; go out after Red Snapper and Groper on Saturdays.”

“Two aircraft and now a boat that I suspect is not a skiff. What else don’t I know about your life?”

“I play http://www.ExpertScrabble.com with Braden and I enjoy long walks in the desert.”

“And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone.”

“I also play tennis and golf and love God.”

“I adore tennis have taken a couple of golf lessons and a 38 footer stocked with bait ‘n beer is my idea of a great weekend.”

“That is God, tennis, and beer ‘n bait in that order. I drive up to Lakewood Church in Houston when I’m in Texas.”

“I’ve been there back in the Osteen days, but with my weekend schedule I have trouble squeezing in time for God.”

“And when you’ve been up in space, it is hard to think about anything else but
God.”

The more she learns about Roy Crippen the more she is impressed. She doubts that there is a more well-rounded man in the United States of America, and she is trapped on this deserted desert island with that very man—well not so deserted or arid.

 


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for deserted island artwork

Deserted Island by Jacek Yerka

Episode 115


page 142

 

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Trash Television – WIF Critique

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Pioneers of

Trash Television

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Tabloid television, or as critics refer to it, “Trash TV,” is made up of abrasive talk shows that set up confrontations and consciously try to be controversial and shocking. Despite being panned for their lowbrow nature and appealing to the lowest common denominator, tabloid talk shows have struck a chord with television audiences and have been popular for the past 50 years.

10. Phil Donahue

After graduating from Notre Dame in 1957, Phil Donahue went to work at a radio station in Cleveland. In 1963, he started one of the first radio talk shows, and in 1967 tried his hand at television with The Phil Donahue Show(later shortened to Donahue). His talk show format, which was targeted at “women who think,” was radical at the time because a big part of the show involved interacting with the studio audience. Audience members were able to ask questions or talk with guests and Donahue was more of a moderator than traditional talk show host. In 1972, the show went into national syndication and became hugely popular, forever changing the landscape of talk shows. For the first nine years it was on, Donahue won nine Daytime Emmys for Best Talk Show Host.

The show had rather taboo topics for the time; for example, the first guest on the show was an atheist. But it also covered other topics that were considered taboo, but in hindsight, were rather important to talk about, like women’s health. Donahue managed to stay on the air for almost 30 years, before getting cancelled in 1996. The problem was that the imitators of Donahue were willing to be more outrageous than him, and people simply weren’t watching his show anymore. Donahue went into retirement until July 2002, when MSNBC resurrected Donahue, but it was cancelled after eight months due to poor ratings.

9. Sally Jessy Raphael

After getting her degree in broadcasting from Columbia, Raphael (whose real name is Sally Lowenthal), went to work in Puerto Rico as a correspondent. After that, she came back to the United States to work in broadcasting. Over the course of three years, she was fired 18 times and she, her three children, and her husband/manager moved around a lot, sometimes sleeping in their car. In 1969, she finally landed steady work as both a morning anchor and an afternoon radio newscaster in Miami. In 1976, she moved to New York, where her popularity started to grow with audiences nationwide with her radio call-in show.

When Raphael was filling in as a substitute for a daytime talk show host in Cleveland, she caught the attention of Phil Donahue’s producer. He gave Raphael a chance with her own half hour talk show located in St. Louis. The Sally Jessy Raphael Show went on the air on October 17, 1983, and within six months, the show became nationally syndicated. She was a pioneer for women in the talk show industry, helping pave the way for the likes of Oprah (whose show debuted the following year).

Raphael, whose trademark red framed glasses became instantly recognizable, was known for taking a liberal stance on many topics like homosexuality, abortion, and premarital sex. This, of course, did not sit well with conservatives during the Reagan era. In the end, Raphael stayed on the air until 2002, when her show was cancelled.

8. Jenny Jones

In 1991, when The Jenny Jones Show went on the air, the daytime talk show circuit was pretty crowded. The host, Jenny Jones, was a comedian who became famous for her Girl’s Night Out comedy act that banned men from coming in. When the show started, Jones explained that it would be “part pajama party, part group therapy, part Oprah.” But, like many shows of the 1990s, after two years of low ratings, the show started to push the envelope. They started doing paternity tests, confronted bullies, and revealed secret crushes. While the show wasn’t anything groundbreaking, it was pioneering for an event that happened because of the show. It was a collision of “it’s only television” and the fact that the guests on tabloid shows are real people.

The controversial show was recorded on March 6, 1995, and was called “Same Sex Secret Crushes.” On the show, a gay man named Scott Amedure told an associate, Jonathan Schmitz, that he had a crush on him. Schmitz went on the show knowing he had a secret admirer, but was led to believe that it was a woman. At the time, Schmitz didn’t seem to be upset by the news, but said he wasn’t gay himself. That night, Amedure, Schmitz, and a mutual friend drank together. The friend claimed that after the taping, Amedure and Schmitz had a sexual encounter, but Schmitz denies that. Three days later, they were back home and Schmitz found a sexually suggestive letter from Amedure. After finding the letter, Schmitz bought a shotgun, went to Amedure’s house and shot him twice in the chest, killing him. In a 911 call, Schmitz blamed the show for the murder. After the murder, the episode was never aired.

At Schmitz’s trial, it was revealed he had a history of mental illness. He was given 25-50 years in 1996. Amedure’s family also sued The Jenny Jones Show and were awarded $25 million in 1999. The show was canceled in 2001, and Jones now hosts a cooking show.

7. Maury Povich

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in television journalism, Maury Povich started working as a reporter and newscaster in Washington, DC. In 1986, he became the host of a new tabloid news show, A Current Affair. Then in 1991, Povich got his first chance at hosting his own talk show, The Maury Povich Show, which ran for seven years. During that time, the climate of tabloid television was changing drastically and shows were given the choice: either follow the flow and dumb the show down, or lose in the ratings. Maury chose to devolve and the show, now just called Maury, re-launched in 1998 with thefirst show being “Who’s Your Daddy?” The use of DNA results would be one of their most common and popular shows. Other shows often feature lie detector tests, makeovers, possessive men, and wild teens.

Since changing the format, Maury has been a staple of the daytime talk show circuit and Povich is a pop culture icon, known for his famous expression when announcing the results of the paternity test. One of the most mind blowing things about Maury is that he was born in 1939, meaning that as he heads into the show’s 18th season in the fall of 2015, he will be 76-years-old.The show was renewed in 2014 for four more years.

6. Chuck Barris

Chuck Barris got his start in television in 1960 as the assistant to American Bandstand host Dick Clark. In 1965, Barris borrowed $20,000 from his stepfather and produced a pilot for his show The Dating Game. The game show involved a bachelor or bachelorette, who would ask three eligible single people behind a wall a series of question. The contestant would then pick one of them, and they would go on some elaborate date together. The show aired on December 20, 1965, on ABC and it was an instant hit. The next year, Barris made a show to pair with The Dating Gamecalled The Newlywed Game, where newly married couples were asked questions to see how much they knew about each other. It was also a big hit.

But the show that Barris struck trash gold with was The Gong Show in 1976. It was a “talent” show that was hosted by Barris himself. The premise of the show was that people performed an act for three celebrity judges. If the performance got to be unwatchable, a judge could bang a large gong to put an end to the act. One very notable controversy happened in 1978 when two 17-year-old girls came out, sat crossed legged on the floor andvery suggestively ate a popsicle. No one rang the gong, but two out of the three judges gave them low marks. Singer and actress Jaye P. Morgan gave them 10 out of 10, saying that was how she got started as well.

While The Gong Show was not a tabloid talk show like the other shows on this list, it was revolutionary in the fact that it used people that really didn’thave any talent. Many people went on the show and completely made fools of themselves in front of a national audience. This idea would of course be mined later for tabloid shows that would come later, not to mention shows like American Idol and America’s Got Talent.

Barris also published an autobiography called Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, in which he claimed that the entire time he was a television producer, he was also a CIA hitman. The book was adapted into a film in 2002, directed by George Clooney and starring Sam Rockwell as Barris.

5. Geraldo Rivera

Brooklyn native Geraldo Rivera got a law degree in 1969, but instead of entering the legal profession, he became a TV news reporter for New York’s WABC-TV. His breakout moment was in 1972, when he did an exposé on abuse against mentally disabled children at the Willowbrook School on Staten Island. From there, he went on to be a contributor for national news programs before joining 20/20 in 1978. He would only stay there for two years before he was fired over a disagreement about a story.

In 1987, Rivera got his own talk show, Geraldo, and it quickly gained notoriety for its controversial topics and guests. The most notable incident happened on November 3, 1988, on a show called “Teen Hatemongers.” On the heated show, a young man named John Metzger, who was the leader of the White Aryan Resistance Youth and the son of infamous white supremacist Tom Metzger, insulted Roy Innis, an African American man who was the national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality. Metzger said, “I’m sick and tired of Uncle Tom here, sucking up and trying to be a white man.” So Innis stood up, walked over and strangled Metzger. This led to a brawl where chairs were thrown and Geraldo’s nose was brokenduring the melee. When asked about the incident, Geraldo said that if there was ever a time for violence, that was it.

The brawl made national headlines and also gave the ratings a huge boost, because news of the brawl was made public before the episode aired. This brawl would of course lay the foundation for another, very controversial show just years later. And yes, we’ll get to that one soon enough. Geraldowas cancelled in 1998 and he is currently a contributor to Fox News.

4. Les Crane

After graduating from Tulane University and serving in the Air Force, Les Crane started off his career in broadcasting in the early 1960s as one ofthe first “shock jocks” on the radio. While tame by today’s standards, Crane would take calls from all over the West Coast of the United States and had no problem insulting and dismissing certain callers’ points of view; even going as far to hang up on some of them.

In 1963, Night Line… With Les Crane, later changed to The Les Crane Show, was first broadcast on ABC, at the 1:00 a.m. time slot. On the show, Crane was confrontational with guests that he didn’t agree with, but he also was pretty hip and cutting edge. For example, he was the first host in the United States to interview the Rolling Stones, and when Bob Dylan was 23-years-old, he appeared on the show and performed three songs. Crane also interviewed Randy Wicker, the first openly gay male on television. He also had some provocative newsmakers like Malcolm X, Governor George Wallace, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

Crane’s show was popular, and in June 1965, he was moved up to 11:30 p.m. to compete against Johnny Carson. Crane, who was just 30 at the time, never really found an audience and was cancelled just a few months later. After losing to Carson, Crane tried another talk show (which also failed), and had some small acting parts. In 1980, he became the chairman of a successful computer software company called Software Toolworks, and passed away at the age of 74 in July 2008.

3. Joe Pyne

Joe Pyne served in World War II, and an injury led to part of his leg being amputated. In 1954, he got his start in television and by 1964, his television show was syndicated in 84 cities. On top of that, his hour long radio show was syndicated in 450 cities.

On his show, Pyne would chain smoke behind a news desk, not unlike Edward R. Murrow, but instead of asking questions, Pyne would actively look for confrontation and often found it. Pyne was one of the first people on TV to argue from his own viewpoint instead of being unbiased, which led to him openly insulting his guests while being cheered on by his studio audience. As for his guests, he would find the most extreme and outrageous people of the day, like the head of the Church of Satan or a man who had been married 17 times. As for why Pyne would argue with his guests, he said that he didn’t respect anyone who would agree to be on his show. We’re not sure if he was including himself in that statement, of course.

Pyne’s show ran until November 1969, when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died at the age of 45 on March 23, 1970.

2. Morton Downey Jr.

In the fall of 1987, a new talk show aired on a local TV station in Secaucus, New Jersey. The show was similar to what Sally Jessy Raphael and Phil Donahue were doing, but the host was a combination of Les Crane and Joe Pyne. That man was 55-year-old Morton Downey Jr.: a chain smoking right winger who screamed, swore, and even got physical with his guests. The show was popular locally and went national a year later. The Morton Downey Jr. Show became a huge hit, mainly because Downey was loud, belligerent, and unapologetic. In fact, the show’s logo was a big mouth. Downey justified his show saying that yelling and confrontation was how a lot of Americans were raised.

When Downey had a guest on his show that he disagreed with (which was many of them), he would scream and blow cigarette smoke in their face while he was cheered on by his near rabid studio audience, which he called “The Beast.” Downey was completely open about his hostility to immigrants, gays, feminists and anyone with liberal leanings.

One notable guest that Downey had on many times was Al Sharpton, who made a name for himself on the show. An interesting story involving Downey and Sharpton was the case of Tawana Brawley. She was a black teenager, who was found wrapped in a plastic bag on the roadside in New York State in November 1987. Someone had written racial epitaphs on her body and she was covered in feces. She claimed she had been raped by a group of white officers. Her story made national headlines when Sharpton took up her cause. Downey confronted Sharpton over the validity of the story, and it turned out Brawley had set the whole thing up.

This story would prove to be important in the downfall of Downey, which started in 1989. It was hard booking guests for the show, because no one wanted to go on a show where they would be yelled at and insulted by Morton while he was being cheered on. It was great for the audience; not so much for the guests. In the summer of 1989, in a desperate attempt for ratings, Downey hosted a show at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, where he had a group of white supremacists “debate” representatives of the African American community (it was more of a screaming match than debate). A short time later, in San Francisco, Downey was found in a bathroom stall in an airport with a bruise on his face, his hair cut, and swastikas drawn on him with felt markers. Downey claimed that a group of skinheads attacked him. He even passed a polygraph, but all evidence indicated that Downey faked the attack. His show was cancelled shortly afterwards and a year later, he filed for bankruptcy.

In 1996, Downey was diagnosed with lung cancer and he immediately changed his stance on smoking, becoming a spokesperson for the American Lung Association. He passed away in 2001 at the age of 68. Downey is also the subject of the documentary Évocateur.

1. Jerry Springer

We’ve hinted at him through the whole list, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Jerry Springer is number one. The man is synonymous with trash television, and he seemingly embraces being king of rock bottom.

Born on February 13, 1944, to parents who escaped the Holocaust, Springer came to the United States when he was five-years-old. By 1968, he had his Juris Doctor, and that’s when he met Robert Kennedy, who was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination. Shortly after the meeting, Springer started working on Kennedy’s campaign, but a few months after joining, Kennedy was assassinated.

Working with Kennedy encouraged Springer to get into politics. He ran for Congress in Ohio, but lost. In 1971, he won a seat on the Cincinnati city council, where he served for five terms. He even survived a sex scandal in 1974 when it was discovered that he had been with a prostitute (he paid with a personal check). In 1977, he became the youngest mayor in Cincinnati’s history. After losing the election for governor of Ohio in 1982, he was approached by a number of television stations to do a talk show.

In 1991, The Jerry Springer Show debuted and, at first, it covered political topics. Then in 1994, in order to boost ratings, a new producer from the tabloid The Weekly World News was brought in to adjust the show. Springer’s new premise was simple: bring out someone, have them reveal a secret, and then let the guests physically fight each other. The show was a hit and a cultural phenomenon for being so outrageous. In May 1998,The Jerry Springer Show became the number one show in the May sweeps, putting an end to Oprah’s 10 year run on top. The show was so popular, it even led to a horrible movie and an opera. Astonishingly, it also managed to lead to a talk show for Springer’s large, bald, and popular security guard on the show, Steve Wilkos (of course, the fact that Wilkos married Springer’s executive producer in 2000 probably helped him land his own show, too).

In 1999, the show was forced to stop showing violence. It was during this time that violence on TV was a hot button issue in the wake of the Columbine shooting. Yet, the show remained popular and is still on the air. The ban on violence seems to have been lifted and it’s as raunchy and trashy as it’s ever been. It is scheduled to be on the air until at least 2018.


Trash Television

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– WIF Critique