A couple of weeks ago, I was watching NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and noticed that the distinguished anchorman Holt, in this troubled era of coronavirus and racial unrest, ended the newscast with a heartfelt, “Please take care of yourself … and each other.”
What an affirming, positive way to stay goodbye. One problem...
I can name that sign-off in four notes: The Jerry Springer Show. I’ve watched the Springer show, oh, about a thousand times. So have you. A show doesn’t stay on the air for three decades without a large, devoted, in this case, bizarre following.
However, this isn’t about my taste in television programs. This is about Lester Holt, the face and direction of NBC News, one of the most respected broadcast journalists in the world, “borrowing” his sign-off from Jerry Springer (not quite the most respected … anything).
To be fair, Springer, in his life prior to talk show mayhem, was a popular and, yes, respected TV anchorman in Cincinnati. And before that, he served as a city council member and mayor of the Queen City.
While I knew that Springer says goodbye on his wild and wooly Jerry Springer Show, which debuted in 1991 and still airs on stations everywhere, with his signature “Take care of yourself … and each other,” his catchphrase dates back much earlier.
I caught up with Springer through a member of his staff and asked Springer what he thought about Lester Holt saying goodnight on NBC Nightly News with a catchphrase almost word-for-word identical to his.
The fact is, you can’t copyright a catchphrase. If a news anchor wants to sign-off with “Good Day” (Paul Harvey) or “And that’s the way it is …” (Walter Cronkite) or “That’s the news and I’m outta here” (Dennis Miller) or “Stay classy, San Diego” (Ron Burgundy), there's no legal pickle. If a comedian wants to use “I don’t get no respect,” welcome to it.
The two most famous catchphrases in Houston TV news history were: “Good evening, friends” (Dave Ward) and “Goodnight, neighbors” (Ron Stone).
I tried to contact Holt and NBC Nightly News for a comment, but didn't hear back. Here’s Springer's take on Holt's closing line:
“I anchored the evening news in Cincinnati for 10 years before I started the talk show. It was the early ’80s, the ‘Me Generation,’ and everyone was saying ‘take care of yourself.’ Being an unreconstructed liberal, I thought it wouldn’t hurt if we also cared and helped take care of each other, so I decided to end each of my newscasts with that line.”
It should be noted that when Springer joined the WLWT-TV news team in Cincinnati, the NBC affiliate was dead last in the ratings. Within two years, he was anchoring the No. 1 newscast in Cincy, and won 10 local Emmy Awards for his commentaries.
So, for nearly 40 years, first on the Channel 5 news in Cincinnati and then host of the Jerry Springer daytime nuttiness, Springer has used “take care of yourself … and each other.” It hasn’t exactly been a secret.
Even now, Channel 39 in Houston airs old reruns of The Jerry Springer Show at 3 pm and 4 am, and Springer’s new show, Judge Jerry, at 9 am.
“When the talk show started I just continued to use those words, because after observing for an hour what happens when people aren’t caring about each other, I thought the sentiment was the perfect antidote to the circus just witnessed.”
You got that right, Jerry. The Jerry Springer Show was mocked by everyone for putting the worst human beings onstage for daily arguments that led to fistfights and ultimately women’s wigs falling off in the scuffle. As Kramer would say on Seinfeld … “cat fight!” Sure everybody mocked, but a lot of people watched.
How does Springer really feel about Lester Holt and the Great Catchphrase Robbery? If you only know Springer from his crazy, bare-knucks talk show, you might be surprised: Springer takes the high road:
“I knew Lester in Chicago. He interviewed me there. He’s so classy and so smart, I’m not at all surprised he shares the same sentiment. His heart shows. It doesn’t matter how he decided to use that sign-off. The times certainly warrant it.”
Pet of the week
Name: Kyra, as actress Kyra Sedgwick (Mrs. Kevin Bacon), and CNN personality, Kyra Phillips.
Birthdate: July 1, 2017 — just entering the prime of a dog’s career.
Ethnicity: I’m a retriever mixed up girly-girl, already spayed, trained, fun-loving, and well behaved. (Which probably puts me four legs up on your children.) If you’re interested in having me join your family, drop an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org.