Ringmaster Balances 'Springer,''Wilkos' in the Daytime Circus

There are probably plenty of married couples that can say they ended their marriages on The Jerry Springer Show. Rachelle Wilkos, however, may be the only woman who actually started her marriage on the show.

And yet, for Wilkos, meeting future husband Steve Wilkos didn’t feel like anything out of the ordinary. Rachelle Consiglio was a producer on Springer, and Steve was known then to fans as the show’s large, intimidating security guard. (Now, of course, he is best known as the large, intimidating host of The Steve Wilkos Show.) Through working together daily, the pair developed a friendship and eventually a relationship (they married in 2000).

How does one manage to keep a marriage going while spending 24 hours a day together—with many of those hours among quarreling couples? “We don’t know anything different,” says Rachelle Wilkos.

Rachelle joined Springer in 1995, the show’s fourth year on the air, just after creator Burt Dubrow departed and Richard Dominick took the reins as executive producer. The years that followed saw Wilkos rise rapidly as coordinating, supervising, coexecutive and, eventually, executive producer—a position to which she was named in September 2008, the same year she also took on the title of EP at Steve Wilkos.

Having the responsibility of managing both talk shows—with one still being, arguably, the most iconic talk show in daytime—would make it seem as if Wilkos had always longed for a producing career. But Wilkos grew up wanting to “be Barbara Walters,” she says, and pursued a degree in journalism/radio and TV at Wayne State University in Michigan. She applied for a news internship at WXYZ Detroit, but they were—fatefully, as it turns out—full. Instead, Wilkos signed on for a programming internship with a local Detroit show entitled Kelly and Company (later Company). That is where, she says, she “found my calling.”

But Wilkos does not feed off of the outrageous and controversial environment in which Jerry Springer and, to a somewhat lesser degree, Steve Wilkos operate, and that is not what drives her desire to remain as EP of these very demanding, and different, shows. Many would balk at the stress of executive producing a show like Springer, and a separate show starring her husband, yet she thrives on it.

“I love my hosts. I go to work every day and I still find it to be a challenge and fun,” she says. “I love the people I work with, and I feel like I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be on this side.”

Wilkos has worked with Springer, who calls his show a “circus,” for more than 17 years. After 21 seasons on the air, the series still manages to pull its weight among newer daytime entrants. Springer finished the 2010-11 season up 7% in household ratings and total viewers—the second straight year the show delivered year-to-year growth, no small feat for an aging program.

Steve Wilkos left Springer in 2006, and a year later, The Steve WilkosShow launched with former Springer executive producer Dominick at the helm. As the host’s wife—and a supervising producer as well—Rachelle Wilkos “could not be any more invested in seeing that show succeed,” she says.

“I was going to do whatever I needed to make sure that it [did],” she says.

And Wilkos did just that—of! cially— once she took over as EP in 2008. The first year, getting the show off the ground was “a blur,” with the producer working sometimes until 3 a.m. Having two young children made it even more difficult but, as Wilkos says, “The show not working was not an option.”

“When she took over, she really let me be me, and who I am,” Steve Wilkos says. “It’s made the show much easier for me to do.”

Rachelle has, of course, cultivated deep relationships with her hosts. Her loyalty and dedication to both shows gives her the capability to juggle them both without dropping a thing.

“This show is not for everybody, and yet she makes it happen every day,” Springer says. “The fact that she can pull it off every day is just phenomenal. There’s no way I could do the show if she wasn’t here.”

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