The Morton Downey Jr. Show

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The Morton Downey Jr. Show
The Morton Downey, Jr. Show.jpg
Show logo
Also known asThe Morton Downey Show
StarringMorton Downey Jr.
Country of originUnited States
Running time60 minutes
Production companiesQMI Television
DistributorMCA Television
Original networkWWOR (1987-1988)
Syndicated (1988-1989)
Original releaseOctober 19, 1987 (1987-10-19) –
September 15, 1989 (1989-09-15)

The Morton Downey Jr. Show is a syndicated American talk show presented by Morton Downey Jr. that ran from 1987 to 1989.[1][2][3] The show and its host pioneered the concept of "trash TV" format.[4][5][6]

Starting as a local program on New York-New Jersey superstation WWOR-TV in October 1987, it expanded into national syndication in early 1988.[7]


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.[8]

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.[9] For example, one time, American activist and politician Roy Innis knocked away American civil rights activist Al Sharpton for interrupting him, forcing the both of them to engage in an all-out brawl. Despite the incident, Downey Jr. decides to keep the show going, though he did not press charges on both of them for battery.

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.[10]


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."[11]


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.[12][13]


  1. ^ "Now Introducing ...Morton Downey Jr". Sun Sentinel. October 27, 1987.
  2. ^ "TV Host Sneers To Succeed". The New York Times. December 14, 1987.
  3. ^ "Morton Downey Jr. The Pit Bull of Talk-Show Hosts". Time. January 3, 1988. Archived from the original on July 8, 2009.
  4. ^ "Morton Downey Jr., trash TV pioneer, 68". New Haven Register. Associated Press. 14 March 2001. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  5. ^ "10 Pioneers of Trash Television". 30 May 2016. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  6. ^ "CNN doc chronicles "trash TV" pioneer Morton Downey Jr". Channel Guide Magazine. 13 August 2015. Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  7. ^ "Morton Downey Jr. Is Taking His Abrasive Style Nationwide". The New York Times. May 16, 1988.
  8. ^ "When The Morton Downey Jr. Show examined—and mimicked—pro wrestling's shtick". The A.V. Club.
  9. ^ "Morton Downey Jr. Made Bullying a TV Trademark". The Los Angeles Times. March 14, 2001.
  10. ^ "His Love for a Brother Brings Morton Downey's Compassion Out of the Closet". People. June 20, 1988.
  11. ^ "Shriek! Chic! It's Morton Downey! Talk's Mr. Nasty, Coming On Strong With the Art of Abuse", The Washington Post, July 6, 1988
  12. ^ "Downey Show Canceled". The New York Times. July 20, 1989.
  13. ^ "Morton Downey Jr. Faces a Terrible Fate: Silence". People. August 7, 1989.

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