The Radio Equalizer: Brian Maloney

10 December 2005

"Jerry Springer- The Opera" Controversy Heats Up


Paramount Slams Groups Protesting Springer Production

While the big Paramount Pictures news is the Viacom unit's $1.5 billion purchase of Dreamworks SKG from three Hollywood titans, one of its cable channels has jumped into a "burning" Newscontroversy over a creepy Jerry Springer-themed musical.

Earlier this year, Christian groups kicked up a firestorm of protest over BBC2's airing of a televised version of the profanity-laced, sexually-explicit "Jerry Springer- The Opera", resulting in a record 63,000 viewer complaints to the Beeb.

Led by UK-based Christian Voice, activists have also fought the show's extended tour to 21 cities beyond its London base and the release of a new DVD version, by picketing theatres and pressuring retail chains.

Overseen by Stephen Green and Lord Ashbourne, Christian Voice believes the United Kingdom has turned its back on God and religion. The group indicates an interest in Dr. Laura Schlessinger's US-based radio program, among other influences. An opposition group has also emerged, its website is found here.

Enter Britain's Paramount Comedy channel, which stepped into the fray with this website "news" update:

Shops Won't Stock Springer

In what could be seen as a major coup by fringe Christian groups, major retail chains have been successfully pressured to withdraw DVD copies of Jerry Springer: The Opera from stores around the UK.

Woolworths and Sainsbury have both removed the film from shelves because of alledged customer concerns about the controversial content of the satirical musical. According to The Independent newspaper website, Sainsbury has admitted it received ten complaints.

The show, co-written by Stewart Lee has been targeted by the campaign group Christian Voice since the beginning of the year after the BBC agreed to broadcast a performance of the show.

Would this kind of editorializing be tolerated if applied to Muslims or other religious groups? Most likely, the "fringe" label wouldn't be used in those cases. In any case, does Paramount (a division of Viacom) have any business making such a determination?

A union representing actors in Britain is protesting the DVD's removal from store shelves, according to Ireland's UTV.

What is this musical about, anyway? Most Americans have likely never heard of it. From Wikipedia:

The first act of the opera takes place in the studio of The Jerry Springer Show. The show proceeds as normal with Jerry introducing each group of guests, who describe their problems to him. The warm-up man feels that he is undervalued by Jerry, and assists one of the guests in shooting him.

The second act begins with Jerry in purgatory, encountering several of the individuals who he had featured on his show. The third and final act sees Jerry proceed down to Hell, where he encounters the Devil. The Devil forces Jerry to present a special episode of his television show where he confronts Jesus about his expulsion from Heaven.

Despite Jerry's protestations, he presents the show and summarises the main protagonists' problems, ultimately uniting Heaven and Hell, quoting the words of William Blake, before being returned to Earth to die.

From there, the story becomes increasingly explicit, to a point that could make even Howard Stern blush. Here are the lyrics, read at your own risk. I wouldn't dare excerpt them here.

Oddly enough, Springer himself has had no part in its production, but visited England and gave it a rave review, saying he wished he'd have thought of it first.

Too bad for Jerry that he didn't, it certainly would have provided a more promising future income stream than his ill-fated Air America radio talk show.

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