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Tough spring for Springer

The high times at The Jerry Springer Show are no longer, at least if recent ratings are any indication. The Studios USA talk show hit its lowest weekly national rating since 1997 in the most recent syndication ratings.

Springer averaged a 3.7 national rating for the week of April 10-16, according to Nielsen Media Research. The show was down 7% from the previous week and is off 45% from last year at this time.

What a difference a year and a stand on principle can make (Studios USA cut back on the fighting, even though it was drawing crowds around the TV set). A year ago, the show was the highest-rated talk show, with a 6.7 rating. Oprah is now back on top, averaging a 6.2 in the latest weekly report. Asked last week whether pressure to tone down his show's content hurt the ratings, Springer told a Hollywood luncheon crowd, "For a few months, we were No. 1, and now we're No. 2. Big deal."

His show tied Live With Regis and Kathie Lee for second place among talk shows, followed by Maury at a 3.3 and Montel Williams at a 3.0. Sally Jessy Raphael dipped 7%, to a 2.6, its lowest weekly rating in more than 12 years. Ricki Lake was the only other talk show to log week-to-week improvement, gaining 4% to a 2.5. Jenny Jones (2.0) and Donny & Marie (1.6) were both flat. Among new syndicated talk shows, Leeza was still the pack leader with a 1.2 rating; Queen Latifah averaged a 1.1.

Entertainment Tonight was the only newsmagazine to improve over the previous week, gaining 3% to a 6.3-tops in the genre. No. 2 Extra fell 9% to a 3.0. Judge Judy, with a 6.6 rating, led court shows. Judge Joe Brown followed with a 3.8, and Divorce Court dipped 7% to a 2.8.

Friends was the top off-net sitcom at a 5.7, and Wheel of Fortune led the game shows and all of syndication with a 10.7 rating. Real TV was the top reality strip, rising 11% to a 2.1.