Some TeeVee historians tend argue the founder of the genre was one Alan Burke...who in the 60s would do an open show in front of a live studio audience which would sometimes be filled with very conservative people mixed in with the hippies/yippies of the era. The open audience would tend to boil over at times and it would get sort of unruly at times.
When other people started to emulate this genre, they not only tended to let small melees boil over in the audience but actively began to willingly encourage it or even plant actors in the audience to incite/instigate bedlam.
We shall focus on four particular hosts (or 3 and 1 honorable mention more like it). These 3 people are in my opinion the finalists for being King of Trash TV.
To be considered as King of Trash, the show in question must have been highly controversial or even completely retarded, it must have been filmed before a rowdy or even asininely feral studio audience, and the studio audience must have been allowed to express opinions upon the subject matter despite how silly or fringe those opinion may have been.
One notable omission is the Howard Stern show. This show is more a of an interview/comedy show more consistent with a late night formula than the Trash genre. The "Channel 9" version of the Stern show is close to meeting the criterion of Trash yet I would still classify that show in the genre of a comedy/interview late night program. It displayed many of the qualities of a Trash genre program yet it is definitely not caste in the Trash format and thus is not considered. Stern may indeed be the self-proclaimed "King of All Media" yet he is surely not King of Trash.
Total jabronies who are worthy of mention but who did not make the final cut: Donahue, Sally Jesse Raphael, Joan "Skeletor" Rivers, Wally George, that big one Ricky Lake, Geraldo, Maury, Steve Wilkos, etc.
If anyone is unclear of what the Trash Genre is, the following is a short parody by Mr. Weird Al which sums up the genre quite compactly...
Lesbian Nazi Hookers Abducted by UFOs and Forced into Weight Loss Programs!
On to The Trash
1. Jerry Springer
Sub-Genre: Scripted Trash
Show Biz Percentage: 100%
The poster boy of the genre himself, the mayor of Cincinnati turned Trash iconoclast. This was the show that really honed the facets of the genre that selled to the audience best and took the Trash genre to its epitome and peak level.
The things that sold best were ridiculous ass shit, fights, tits, and just general weirdness. The producers figured out that if you script all the fights and pay women to show tits then you can have this each and every single show. The cutest thing on this show was after all this scripted nonsense was done...Jerry would offer up a sobering and downright silly "final thought" to attempt to summarize the circus that had just ensued. The "final thought" segment was so darned odd that it was pretty hilarious. You'd have like 21 straight minutes of brawls from some whacky hill billy lesbian love triangle...and then Springer would read his inner most and somberest thoughts concerning lesbian hill billy love triangles as per prepared for him before hand.
I think this show is still on which is literally like kicking a dead horse at this point. In this case I guess it is literally like marrying a dead horse at this point I should say (if you watched this show back in the day, a fellow indeed came on to marry a horse once).
Since it is scripted, 100% show-biz, and mostly features actors it is hard to laugh at it sometimes, but the scripted whackos still rarely fail at being funny. Everything considered, this was a pretty decent program.
2. Morton Downey Jr.
|Morton is mediating...|
Show Biz Percentage: 25%
Oh goodness. Morton Downey Jr., oh my goodness. This was a wild one, and I really believe close to 3/4 of this mess was not a shtick. They put two opposing groups of people into a room, surrounded them by a non-screened studio audience, and refereed it with an in-yer-face chain-smoking maniac.
The format was Loudmouth #1 vs. Loudmouth #2 vs. Loudmouth #3. Three or four guests expressing usually fringe and polarized opinions. Downey remained unbiased to the discussion and mainly just told everyone they were wrong and that they were idiots in order to fire them up and get them to open up about even more or their opinions.
The thing I like the most I think on this show is when a heckler is getting loud and crazy...they don't kick the person out...Downey summons him down to the stage a la Rod Roddy or goes into the crowd and fishes them out and gets them to a mic to express whatever opinion they are hooting or hollering about. Chances are its either gonna be funny, crazy, or insane but it will be heartfelt and real that's for sure. Sometimes they were opinions that may well have been correct but were simply too harsh that no one wanted to admit they were true.
One day it might be jezus freaks, wiccan weirdoes, and new-age kooks yelling at each other whilst being presided over by Dracula (note: the lady with the poodle head hair is the only person in this episode not in costume). Another day it might be rap stars versus white supremacists or some other volatile situation. How 'bout one about cult experts versus nutty scientologists? That one's good too.
He'll even get all post-modern and existential on you and do a rude talk show episode about rude talk show hosts. Hey, why not?
The piece de resistance may have been a show in a rented out Apollo Theater, with a sold out audience of rabid christians, gathered together for a good old fashion debate between atheists and christians. The rowdiness and fights that break out in the Apollo were not scripted...that's raw right there. The only thing that was scripted in this debacle was when he dumped water on "loudmouth #2"...the guest obviously had a hat ready to take out to sell the gag.
Downey passed away over a decade ago from lung cancer (the chain-smoking got 'em) but this show left its mark for better or worse.
3. Timothy Stack
Show Biz Percentage: 110%
You've probably seen T. Stack pop up somewhere here or there on some show or other. He's a longtime character actor. Here for example he's bit playing some bit on Seinfeld and you've probably seen him some other place on some show...probably.
He's sort of forgettable I guess, but on the two shows where he was given the headline time he really had some moments. Stack was of course Notch Johnson on the Bay Watch parody show "Son of The Beach" and he was also Trash TeeVee host Dick Dietrick on the short lived "Night Stand."
Trash Talk was already done-to-death at this point and this parody version was probably the best way to go with the genre. It is a stage show more than a Trash Talk but the audience is there and allowed to yell and stuff so it meets the criterion.
It's odd to parody things that are basically ridiculous to being with. I love that movie Black Dynamite for example which is a parody of Dolemite...and Dolemite was incredibly ridiculous to begin with meaning the parody became a parody of a parody which makes it a Dual-Parody. Stack's "Son of The Beach" parody of Baywatch fits the mold of a compounded Dual-Parody as does his work in Night Stand.
How do you parody Morton Downey Jr. or Springer? The end result will be stupidity multiplied by 2 is what it will be. Stupid times stupid is stupid squared. Double Stupid is something original at least...it's not something you see everyday anyway. Having more stupidity is better than having no stupidity.
4. Honorable Mention: Wally Sparks
Show Biz Percentage: 110%
This was a film about a rude talk show host starring the Legend of Comedy Legends Mr. Rodney Dangerfield.
The son of a respected governor thinks it would be a hoot to invite his hero, trash talksman extraordinaire Wally Sparks, to a ritzy party his father is hosting. Misfortune erupts as Sparks gets injured whilst accidentally riding a horse through the gathering. The governor reluctantly lets Sparks host his show at his mansion while he heals his wounds. As you'd expect all kinds of ruckus breaks out and Sparks does what he can to boost ratings and deliver the sleeziest trash teevee from the governor's mansion.
This movie isn't that good...it's not an A+ Rodney movie by any stretch but it should still be included in this retrospective. I've wrote a comedy oriented blog for like a few years now and I've never once even mentioned Rodney yet....so squeezing him in here seems like a good moment.
Rodney is a freaking amazing comedian, top 5 of all time no doubt, but he's definitely not the King of Trash Teevee (at least not in real life).
Drum Roll Pleeeeeeeeease.....
The Official King of the deceased genre known as Trash TV is...
It was between him and Springer and though Springer is a funnier show, Downey's show was plain nuts. He was not necessarily always a likeable dude but his show was intense and freaking wild. It's probably the one and only legit trash talk show that ever existed. Some parts of it were literally crazy and at some times it was so raw it was freakin' real as fuck. More real than anything you'll see on a so-called "reality" show on modern day TV that's for sure.
"Ya Drug Dealin', Slime Sucking Son of a BITCH....I hope that you die sloooooooooooow"
-Morton Downey Jr. (1932 - 2001)
EDIT (Sept. 20/2014): I gave Downey props for doing an odd idea of doing a rude talk show about rude talk show hosts. The idea was kind of silly yet highly original. I recently watched this episode of the Bill Boggs Midday show in which he did a talk show of a talk show host talking to other talk show hosts about doing talk shows:
Seeing as Bill Boggs was the producer of the Morton Downey Jr. Show, I'm gonna go and assume that the idea of doing an episode of a rude talk show host interviewing rude talk show hosts about doing rude talk shows was in fact Bill Boggs's so the props for that original idea should be given to Boggs.