The Morton Downey Jr. Show
|The Morton Downey Jr. Show|
|Also known as||The Morton Downey Show|
|Starring||Morton Downey Jr.|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Production company(s)||QMI Television
|Original network||WWOR (1987-1988)
|Original release||October 19, 1987 – September 15, 1989|
The program featured screaming matches among Downey, his guests, and audience members. Using a large silver bowl for an ashtray, he would chainsmoke during the show and blow smoke in his guests' faces. Downey's fans became known as "Loudmouths", patterned after the studio lecterns decorated with gaping cartoon mouths, from which Downey's guests would go head-to-head against each other on their respective issues.
Downey's signature phrases "pablum puking liberal" (referring to left leaning progressives) and "Zip it!" briefly enjoyed some popularity in the contemporary vernacular. He particularly enjoyed making his guests angry with each other, which on a few occasions resulted in physical confrontations.
The show is also remembered for its intro, featuring Downey making strange faces with other things like the American flag, KKK, a woman's legs, and news headlines, Downey wearing boxing gloves (on the wrong hands), Downey opening his mouth to the camera, then the show's logo appears.
During one controversial episode, Downey introduced his gay brother, Tony Downey, to his studio audience and informed them Tony was HIV positive. During the episode, Downey stated he was afraid his audience would abandon him if they knew he had a gay brother, but then said he did not care.
Downey gained a mixed to negative reception from television critics. The Washington Post wrote about him, "Suppose a maniac got hold of a talk show. Or need we suppose?" David Letterman said, "I'm always amazed at what people will fall for. We see this every 10 or 12 years, an attempt at this, and I guess from that standpoint I don't quite understand why everybody's falling over backwards over the guy."
Regardless, the success of Downey made its host a pop culture celebrity, leading to an appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1988, WrestleMania V in 1989 (in which he traded insults with Roddy Piper and Brother Love on Piper's Pit), and later roles in movies such as Predator 2 and Revenge of the Nerds III: The Next Generation. Downey was also cast in several television roles, often playing tabloid TV hosts or other obnoxious media types.
In 1988, Downey recorded an album of songs based on his show, entitled Morton Downey Jr. Sings (released in 1989). The album's only single, "Zip It!" (a catch-phrase from the show, used to quiet an irate guest), became a surprise hit on some college radio stations.
Over the course of the 1988–89 season, Downey suffered a decline in viewership, resulting in many markets downgrading its time slot; even flagship station WWOR moved it from its original 9:00 PM slot to 11:30 PM in late 1988. A few months later, in January 1989, the syndicated Arsenio Hall Show premiered on WWOR, which initially aired it immediately after Downey's program. However, following Hall's strong early ratings, the two series swapped time slots several weeks later, thus relegating Downey to 12:30 AM in the #1 television market.
The show was canceled in July 1989, with the owners announcing that the last show had been taped on June 30 and no new shows would air after September 15. At the time of its cancellation, the show was airing on a total of 30 stations across the country (including WPHL in Philadelphia), and its advertisers had been reduced primarily to "direct-response" ads (such as chat line and phone sex 900-numbers).
- "Now Introducing ...Morton Downey Jr.". Sun Sentinel. October 27, 1987.
- "TV Host Sneers To Succeed". The New York Times. December 14, 1987.
- "Morton Downey Jr. The Pit Bull of Talk-Show Hosts". Time. January 3, 1988.
- "Morton Downey Jr. Is Taking His Abrasive Style Nationwide". The New York Times. May 16, 1988.
- "When The Morton Downey Jr. Show examined—and mimicked—pro wrestling's shtick". The A.V. Club.
- "Morton Downey Jr. Made Bullying a TV Trademark". The Los Angeles Times. March 14, 2001.
- "His Love for a Brother Brings Morton Downey's Compassion Out of the Closet". People. June 20, 1988.
- "Shriek! Chic! It's Morton Downey! Talk's Mr. Nasty, Coming On Strong With the Art of Abuse", The Washington Post, July 6, 1988
- "Downey Show Canceled". The New York Times. July 20, 1989.
- "Morton Downey Jr. Faces a Terrible Fate: Silence". People. August 7, 1989.