'Jerry Springer' and Other Iconic Talk Shows We Used to be Obsessed With

Jerry Springer

Jerry Springer by (None)

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Jerry Springer
Jerry Springer by (None)

Talking Heads

Jerry Springer, who died today, will be long remembered for keeping the "fun in dysfunction" with "The Jerry Springer Show" that leaned in hard on family feuds. While the world wonders who will be the next talk show host to interview trashy, crazy guests, we can't forget about some notorious talk shows, both day and night, that have faded from view. For every Letterman, Leno, or Oprah, there was also a Jenny Jones or a Chevy Chase and many other TV talk shows you may have forgotten.

Related: 25 Celebs Whose First Job Was Worse Than Yours

Jerry Springer Talk Show
Ralf-Finn Hestoft / Getty Images

'The Jerry Springer Show'

For 27 years, "The Jerry Springer Show" was where America turned to see some of the least-flattering reflections of itself. Hosted by the one-time mayor of Cincinnati, the show was the scene of lurid family revelations, outright brawling, nudity, and many tearful confessions. Before ending in 2018, its ratings peaked in the late '90s, even topping "Oprah" at one point. Episode titles included such gems as "Slept With My Girlfriend's Brother," "Algebra-Teaching Prostitute," and "Threesome With My Mom!" You get the idea. Springer died today at 79.

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The Chevy Chase Show
Jeff Kravitz/Getty

'The Chevy Chase Show'

One thing actor-comedian Chevy Chase wasn't great at came to light with this single-season talk show that ran in 1993, canceled after just 29 episodes. An attempt to capitalize on Johnny Carson's retirement, the show was heavy on quirks, including a fish tank, basketball net, and a desk with a built-in piano. Despite big-name guests, from Goldie Hawn to Robert De Niro to Dennis Hopper to Kathleen Turner, it simply failed to connect. As Time magazine put it, the show found Chase "nervous and totally at sea." 

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Dinah's Place
Brownie Harris/Getty


Yes, she only needed one name – singer-actress Dinah Shore's talk show fed off the success of her early '70s variety show. From 1974 until its end in 1980, the show (by then known as "Dinah's Place") followed the standard format of celebrity interviews and musical performances but stood out by having Shore perform on every single show. Making her 90-minute effort a bit different, the woman-in-television pioneer often themed shows, such as entire-cast tributes to shows such as "The Waltons" with music reflecting the songs of the show's time period. (And yes, her then-paramour Burt Reynolds even made an appearance during the run).

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Donny & Marie

'Donny & Marie'

The playful brother-sister act of the Osmond siblings propelled their 1976-79 variety show to popularity — and was tapped again for a talk show twenty years later. Relying on the duo's touted "chemistry, warmth, and showmanship," the show ran from 1998-2000. Even if the talk show was short-lived, it wouldn't be their last pairing up. An 11-year Las Vegas residency concluded in 2019.

The Merv Griffin Show
Joan Adlen Photography/Getty

'The Merv Griffin Show'

Led by Merv Griffin, this show found the onetime radio and film talent become a viewing ritual in many a household. Griffin's first eponymous talk-show stint (a short-lived 1962-63 effort) was based on his success as a post-Jack Parr interim host of "The Tonight Show," but he hit gold with his nationally syndicated show that debuted in 1965 and earned him 11 Emmy Awards during its total run of more than two decades. That success saw him host everyone from personalities of the day such as Zsa Zsa Gabor to controversial comics including George Carlin. He was also creating game shows at the same time ("Jeopardy!" and "Wheel of Fortune"), which ensured his status as a media mogul.

Tony Danza
Cindy Ord / Getty

'The Tony Danza Show'

Who's not the boss of daytime television? That would be the actor, dancer, and onetime boxer known as Tony Danza. The star of "Taxi" and "Who's The Boss?" did keep his daytime show alive from 2004-06 — more than 300 total episodes — but it was doomed by declining ratings. Don't cry for him – he's continued in the industry, having a particularly strong run in various Broadway shows.

Ricki Lake
Getty Images/Getty

'Ricki Lake'

Ricki Lake, famed for her starring role in the original "Hairspray" movie, transitioned to talk-show host with her tabloid-style show that ran from 1993-2004. Designed to appeal to a youthful audience, Lake connected with her fans with her frank approach, playfulness, and personal subjects, such as parenting, relationships, and social themes. Sample topics? "It's Time You Knew It, Baby You Blew It" or "Sexy Blue-Collar Fixups" or "Mom, Since Your Divorce You're Out of Control." After the original run, Lake would return for a syndicated sequel of sorts, "Ricki" (or "The New Ricki Lake Show") in 2012-13. The Hollywood Reporter noted the reboot "never was able to attract enough of the adult female audience she was targeted to serve."

The Morton Downey Jr. Show

'The Morton Downey Jr. Show'

"Mort, Mort, Mort!" That's what the raucous audience members would chant as Downey, the pioneer of "trash TV," prowled the stage. The 1987-89 syndicated program featured the host riling up guests and audience members alike. It was wild — and then it was gone. As The Washington Post reported in 2015, "Though journalists under 40 may shrug when asked if they remember Downey, no one over 40 can forget him."

Sally Jesse Raphael
Sally Jesse Raphael by David Shankbone (CC BY)


If you hear the name Sally Jessy Raphaël, you will be forgiven for immediately thinking "red-framed eyeglasses." Those were her signature, but her legacy remains a self-titled talk show that ran from 1983 to 2002. The veteran radio host was encouraged by Phil Donahue to try TV and the rest, as they say, is history. This straight-talking host of the issue-driven show was one of the first female hosts; her tabloid-style show began with serious topics such as religious fanaticism but eventually became more a mix of the serious and the lighthearted.

The Mike Douglas Show
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'The Mike Douglas Show'

We dare you to find one suburban household of the time that didn't tune in to Mike Douglas. The show, which debuted in 1961 and ran for 21 seasons, was an afternoon staple across the country. Douglas was a low-key, entertaining host who often performed a song during the show. It was also noted for sharing the spotlight via weekly co-hosts (think a young Barbra Streisand), tackling some topical issues – and in a historic note, was interrupted on air when the originating station's newsman came on to announce John F. Kennedy's assassination. Perhaps the most "historic" guest, though, was a 2-year-old Tiger Woods who demonstrated his swing.

The Rosie O'Donnell Show
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'The Rosie O'Donnell Show'

A six-season, award-winning daytime program that debuted in 1996, the variety show found the comedian/actress getting attention for devoting a full show to the interview-shy Barbra Streisand, her long-running joke involving Tom Cruise – and doggedly confronting actor Tom Selleck on the topic of gun control. O'Donnell reportedly left the Emmy Award-winning show to spend more time with her children but revived the show last spring during the early days of the pandemic to raise money for the Actors Fund of America.

The Queen Latifah Show

'The Queen Latifah Show'

Some entertainers stick to one specialty, such as singing or acting. Queen Latifah is not one of those entertainers. The singer-songwriter-rapper-actress-producer-and-model had two stints as host of her own show, from 1999-2001 and 2013-15. Billed as "Dear Abby for the Hip-Hop Generation," the original show was a topic-driven effort that featured celebrities as well as everyday guests. The second run was recognized with a People's Choice Award and twice-nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Talk Series.

The Dick Cavett Show
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'The Dick Cavett Show'

You probably remember Dick Cavett, as he remains a talk-show pioneer (dubbed by the BBC as "the greatest talk show host of all"). But did you know his self-titled program had nearly 10 different incarnations on nearly as many networks and times of day, starting on ABC daytime in 1968 and ending on TCM in 2007? Whether tackling political topics or pop culture, Cavett was noted for his probing style and wry wit. Notable moments over the decades abound, from politically charged exchanges to cultural milestones to a wild 1971 appearance by Surreal artist Salvador Dalí. The show's footage remains a draw, as of mid-2020 earning nearly 50 million views on its YouTube channel.

The Late Show with Joan Rivers Show

'The Late Show With Joan Rivers'

Long before Joan Rivers became better known for her countless plastic surgeries, jewelry designs, and stints as a commentator on the red carpet and as the acid-tongued ringleader of the "Fashion Police," the veteran comedian, actress, producer, and writer became the first woman to host a late-night TV talk show in 1986 with "The Late Show with Joan Rivers." Launched to compete against Johnny Carson (Rivers' mentor, for whom she long served as permanent guest host), it lasted two seasons. Rivers then went on to host "The Joan Rivers Show" (1989-93), an Emmy Award-winning daytime show.

Tomorrow with Tom Snyder
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

'Tomorrow With Tom Snyder'

Tom Snyder — memorable for those bushy black eyebrows and a laugh sent up repeatedly (and spectacularly) by Dan Aykroyd on "Saturday Night Live" – was yet another talk-show pioneer. "Tomorrow" followed "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson and ruled late-late nights from 1973-82 and again, with "The Late Late Show with Tom Snyder" in the 1990s. Snyder's unique style of pairing interviews with his own personal observation, proved highly watchable, as did his guests who ranged from punk rocker John Lydon to musical icon John Lennon to yes, cult leader/criminal Charles Manson.

The Whoopi Goldberg Show

'The Whoopi Goldberg Show'

Long before she joined the weekday fray that is "The View," actor/comedian Whoopi Goldberg was the host of her own late-night talk show. She kicked off the 1992-93 single guest-format series with Elizabeth Taylor. The following 199 episodes would feature a diverse roster of guests that included such A-listers as Al Gore, Eartha Kitt, Elton John, Jerry Lewis, Andrew Dice Clay, Ozzy Osbourne, and Robin Williams.

The Chris Rock Show

'The Chris Rock Show'

HBO featured the cutting-edge comic in a late-night talk show, an Emmy Award-winning effort that aired over five seasons (1997-2000). Its writers included not only Rock but also a long list of fellow comics including Wanda Sykes and Louis C.K. and featured sketches, interviews, and musical performances. On the 20th anniversary of its debut, Medium.com noted that the topical show "had the feeling of a child on Christmas unwrapping each episode like a series of bigger and better gifts."

Charlie Rose
Charlie Rose by Pete Souza (None)

'Charlie Rose'

Before the noted TV journalist and talk-show host Charlie Rose found his show sidelined amid allegations of a long history of sexual harassment, his eponymous PBS talk show (1991-2017) was noted for its sophisticated appeal and intellectual bent. Rose hosted in-depth (and probing) interviews with notables from the fields of politics, sports, entertainment, business, and science.

The Susan Powter Show
Woman's Day

'The Susan Powter Show'

Did we ever "Stop the Insanity!"? That was the catchphrase of the motivational speaker, nutritionist, personal trainer, and author Susan Powter who added TV talk-show host to her mid-1990s resume with a single-season program focused on nutrition and fitness. Apparently, America just wasn't ready to hear what the Australian-born wellness advocate had to say.

Gabrielle Carteris
Ron Davis/Getty


We always knew Andrea Zuckerman was destined for success beyond the halls of West Beverly High School. Yes, okay, it was actually Gabrielle Carteris who portrayed star-student Zuckerman on "Beverly Hills, 90210." Carteris remains active in the entertainment industry, though her foray into the talk-show genre was short-lived with a 1995-96 daytime show that failed to connect. Still, Carteris came back strong with a meaty storyline in the surprisingly good "90210" reboot in 2019 and maintains a real-life leadership role in SAG-AFTRA, the entertainment trade union.

Thicke of the Night

'Thicke of the Night'

Singer and "The Masked Singer" judge Robin Thicke's father was a multitalented entertainer, a singer-songwriter who perhaps most famously starred in the popular sitcom "Growing Pains." Alan Thicke also hosted his own late-night talk show, the offbeat "Thicke of the Night" from 1983-84 on American TV (boosted by his own popular, self-titled show in his home country of Canada). Heavy on the comedy, regulars included Richard Belzer, Arsenio Hall, Gilbert Gottfried, Fred Willard, and countless others.

The Phil Donahue Show

'The Phil Donahue Show'

Today's younger TV fans may not be familiar with Phil Donahue beyond his being the author, with wife Marlo Thomas, of their 2020 book on long-lasting marriages. Well, journalist Donahue created and hosted his own show, which later was known simply as "Donahue," that became a TV landmark (1967-96) as the first talk show that included audience participation. Donahue's show was topical, issue-driven, and respected, earning 20 Emmy Awards and the host's induction into the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Hall of Fame.

The Montel Williams Show
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'The Montel Williams Show'

Motivational speaker, author, extensive Navy career, actor… Montel Williams' list of accomplishments is endless — and includes hosting his own syndicated tabloid talk show from 1991-2008. He wasn't simply in it for the success, as WebMD noted, giving a nod to his role-model status in the entertainment industry: "His concern and dedication to the 'The Montel Williams Show' and its guests are evidenced by his creation of the show's After-Care Program started in 1992. The program has arranged for many guests to attend psychological counseling sessions, weight-loss programs, rehabilitation centers, motivational camps, and treatment for eating disorders." Today, Williams hosts "Military Makeover: Operation Career" on Lifetime and continues to offer motivation and inspiration as he openly shares his battle with multiple sclerosis.

The Arsenio Hall Show

'The Arsenio Hall Show'

"Woof. Woof." Yes, Arsenio Hall could whip up an audience who'd bark their approval – and that's what led the actor/comedian to late-night success with his own show that ran from 1989-94 and again, in 2013-14. A hit with the younger audiences, a sought-after demographic, Hall would not only entertain but also educate, and was especially active in providing information about HIV/AIDS. In marking its history, Wriit.com noted, the show's first incarnation "was a significant event in television and cultural history. It was the first late-night talk show with an African-American host that competed with other major talk show hosts such as Johnny Carson and David Letterman … and won in ratings."

The Pat Sajak Show
The Pat Sajak Show by CBS Corporation (None)

'The Pat Sajak Show'

I'd like to buy a hit show? Pat Sajak, best known as the veteran host of the wildly popular game show "Wheel of Fortune," did a little moonlighting (he left the daytime network version of the popular gameshow, remaining with the syndicated nighttime version) with a foray into late-night TV with his own 1989-90 talk show. Featuring a monologue, comedy bits, performances, and celebrity guests, it was familiar territory. Starting at 90 minutes, it was cut to an hour before being … cut off.

The Dennis Miller Show
The Dennis Miller Show by CobraWiki (None)

'The Dennis Miller Show'

Like your talk-show host with a side of snark? Then Dennis Miller was (and is) your man. The former "Saturday Night Live" star would go on to host a series of talk shows starting with his eponymous late-night effort in 1992 that lasted just seven months. He would continue on with shows such as "Dennis Miller Live," a weekly talk/comedy show (1994-2002) on HBO that earned multiple Emmy Awards, a CNBC show, and various TV, radio, and podcast gigs.

Carnie Wilson
Deborah Feingold/Getty


Carnie Wilson grew up the daughter of musical icon Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys and would go on to her own musical success as a member of the pop trio Wilson Phillips. Success on the small screen was elusive, though, as the daytime show "Carnie!" lasted just one season (1995-96). Perhaps audiences were tired of tabloid topics such as "Your Flirtatious Ways Are Ruining Our Relationship."

Chelsea Lately
Theo's Little Bot

'Chelsea Lately'

Risque and ribald… that's Chelsea Handler, the comedian, actor, and writer who hosted her own E! network show from 2007-2015, complete with diminutive sidekick Chuy Bravo and a roster of what W magazine called, "many B-, C- and D-list guests." Handler herself told W that, "The worse the guests are, the more pathetic they are, the funnier the show is." 

"The Jenny Jones Show"

'The Jenny Jones Show'

The Canadian-American presenter, and now women's health advocate, helmed her own show from 1991 to 2003. It was a long run but one forever clouded by a shocking event, a murder sparked by a 1995 taping of an episode titled "Same-Sex Secret Crushes." The show survived the scandal and a subsequent legal issue yet eventually was canceled due to poor ratings.

Dinner for Five

'Dinner for Five'

The brainchild of actor/director Jon Favreau, this quirky spin on talk shows featured the creator hosting a group of celebrities for dinner, drinks, and conversation. Airing from 2001-2005 on the Independent Film Channel (with a special 50th episode that aired in 2008), the fresh-formatted show featured a wildly eclectic roster of guests that included David Duchovny, Fran Drescher, Martin Scorsese, Darryl Hannah, Marilyn Manson, Isaac Mizrahi, Tony Hawk, and James Caan.

The Larry Sanders Show

'The Larry Sanders Show'

Okay, we're gonna bend the rules with this riotous sitcom based on the behind-the-scenes comedy (and drama) of a fictional TV talk show that ran from 1992-98 on HBO. With an all-star cast led by Garry Shandling and co-starring Rip Torn, Jeffrey Tambor, Janeane Garofolo, and a host of other comic actors, the show was acclaimed, influential, groundbreaking – and pretty darned funny. Hey now!