Sally Jessy Raphael’s Show Holds Up Better Than Most Of Today’s Daily Media For Good Reasoning
Many Millennials and Boomers alike will tell that daytime television of the ‘80s, ‘90s, and early ‘2000s was simply the best. Everything was new and exciting and while celebrities made their appearances, a lot of what we were really watching was everyday Americans who would share their personal stories on national television. One of the first shows to incorporate audience interaction with the random guests was The Sally Jessy Raphael Show – which predates Oprah Winfrey’s reign as talk show queen by three years, starting its run in 1983. Thanks to free streaming platforms like YouTube, you can find a wide variety of full episode of Sally and so many more with a quick search. After watching countless episodes of Sally, this particular Instinct Magazine contributor realized that her show seemed so innocent and pure – not only compared to today’s more salacious talk shows, but even standing on its own. You can tell on a rewatch that Sally herself had no time for nonsense on her show. She wasn’t trying to find the *first* CashMeOutside girl (AKA Danielle Bregoli or Bhad Bhabie – made infamous and a millionaire thanks to Dr. Phil McGraw) or send a devastated and embarrassed new-mother on a run throughout her studio after a shocking paternity result. Sally was sincerely trying to help people, whether they be those bad teenagers (not just teenage girls as we’ve recently seen), LGBTQ+ persons, battered women, and the like. Watching these reruns seems like a flashback to a different time. Sally was sweet, stern, and did her best to ensure that her guests, and the public, saw what she wanted them to see in damaged or different individuals: Their heart. She has many shows available on YouTube showcasing the devastating ‘90s era for the LGBTQ+ community, especially transgendered persons, but also loved to host drag queens. Sally is a true underrated LGBTQ ally and is in a far different category when it comes to let’s say… Jenny Jones. Sally even publicly embarrassed Rush Limbaugh when he was accepting his Radio Hall of Fame award in 1993, using her pull as a talk show host to induct him into the honorees while shaming him and everything he stood for because she didn’t like him. He eventually retaliated by circulating a photograph of her without makeup on. Yet, it turns out that perhaps having a warm heart is what did her in. After doing some quick investigation, her show was canceled due to low ratings, but she believes differently.
According to The Television Academy, Sally did an interview in January 2020 to discuss her show ending. She put sole blame on the media, in particularly NBC Universal, calling them devious. When her show was canceled in 2002, the most popular talk shows at the time were Jerry Springer, Maury, and of course, Oprah. Sally preferred to stick to hard hitting subjects and educational topics, like immigration, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights – and she wanted to continue that route. However, NBC wanted to head in the direction of Maury and Springer – they wanted Baby Mama Drama and paternity tests and they didn’t care if Sally didn’t. Here’s the thing: Sally did countless paternity tests on her show in the past, but she never exploited her guests like Maury and Springer have done. In the above video, Sally, still strong and pointed, claims she doesn’t know how Maury can look himself in the mirror everyday after the emotional harm he’s done to the guests on his show. She continues to tell that she believes NBC wanted her to bring in people who are considered undereducated – and typically persons of color – and make them look like fools for ratings and shock value. When Sally fought back, the show had a revolving door of her best producers who were standing by her, until she was left fighting the war on her own, and her show was canceled.
decided to pin producers against her to get her to do shows she doesn’t want to do – exploited people, wasn’t great broadcasting. Making people appear as fools like Jerry and Maury, taking people of color for fools, exploiting undereducated persons. NBC wanted trashy television, didn’t want to talk about hot topics like immigration and women’s health, they wanted DNA tests. Sally was fighting it, she wouldn’t give up the job because she wanted to work and needed the money. She fought for more educational topics. Couldn’t feel good about the work she was doing anymore. They took away her best producers are put them on other shows at NBC to essentially take her down.
It’s a shame what drives media to forge for ratings galore, but can anyone say they are surprised? If you’d like to relive some nostalgia from Sally’s heyday, check out this clip below where she warmly speaks to transgender guests below:
Writer’s Note: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.