Nov. 06--When NBC announced in 2007 that Jerry Springer's bodyguard would be given his own talk show, there was a lot of skepticism over whether he would make it past the first episode.
But seven seasons later, Steve Wilkos is still going strong. The cop-turned-talk show host is set to air the 1,000th episode of "The Steve Wilkos Show" on Friday, Nov. 22, at 11 a.m. on WPIX.
Taking a break from his usual format of chiding miscreant guests and tossing chairs in frustration, Wilkos will take a look back on some of the most memorable moments of the show, including a few that got his bald head boiling and others that nearly brought him to tears.
In a recent interview, Wilkos, who films his show at Stamford's Rich Forum and lives in Fairfield County with his wife and two kids, talked about his unlikely transition from law enforcement to daytime television; how he's been able to win over fans and critics with his everyman style; and the moment at which he realized he could be more than just Jerry Springer's bodyguard.
Q: What's going through your mind as your prepare to film your 1,000 episode?
A: When I look back on it, I didn't think anyone would give me a chance to get to 1,000. I don't even know if NBC thought I would last this long.
Q: Why do you think there was so much skepticism surrounding your chances for success?
A: People made a lot of assumptions about me. They thought, "He's just the lughead from 'Jerry Springer.' This caveman won't be able to talk." At press junkets, the reporters would laugh right in my face. But that only motivated me even more. ... I haven't failed at too many things in my life, and I certainly wasn't going to fail at this.
Q: Why do you think the show has been such a success?
A: When people watch me, they know I'm not a celebrity, that I'm not Ellen or Oprah. They're watching a guy they feel like they know. People relate to me. The biggest compliment I get from people is: "You say things on the show that I'm saying at home." I represent the average guy, the everyday man.
Q: Looking back on the last seven seasons of "The Steve Wilkos Show," are there any moments that really stick out for you?
A: To pick out one moment, it's hard. What I think about is all the people that have come on my show. Some of them are just bad people. It scares me to think these people have a child waiting for them to come home. That's what impacts me most is stories with children. To me, it's very sad. ... I hope these parents take something positive away from the show, that I can make them see their responsibilities.
Q: How successful do you think the show has been in that regard?
A: I think the show has had an effect, even if we aren't batting 1,000.
Q: Did you ever in a million years think you would become a TV star?
A: I never thought of TV as a career. I was a policeman -- that was my career. Being on TV was a side job. I was very happy in my role as bodyguard. I loved doing "Springer." I had fun. I met my wife on the show. A lot of good things came of it ... but I never thought I was going to get my own show; it just evolved in an organic way.
Q: At what point did you realize that you wanted to or could host your own show?
A: When I was guest hosting "Springer" when Jerry was on "Dancing With The Stars." The ratings started coming in and they were good. There were times when they spiked. I realized, I liked doing it. It's a lot of fun. At first, I was nervous, scared -- hell, I never hosted a show. But when the ratings didn't crash into the gutter, I said, "Hey, I can do this." I never put any thought into it. It was like winning the lottery. And I've been so fortunate for the opportunity. I hope in a few years we can talk about the 2,000 episode.
Scott.firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @scottgarg
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