Britain’s ‘Jeremy Kyle Show’ Canceled After Death of Guest
LONDON — One of Britain’s most popular daytime television programs was canceled on Wednesday, following the death of a guest who failed a lie-detector test trying to prove that he was faithful to his wife.
“Given the gravity of recent events we have decided to end production of ‘The Jeremy Kyle Show,’” Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of the show’s broadcaster, ITV, said in a statement.
The incident has caused intense debate here about whether confrontational talk shows have any place on British TV, and on Wednesday the chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee of Parliament, Damian Collins, announced the start of an independent review of the responsibility that TV companies have to protect participants in reality shows.
But some former guests have defended the show, saying it was being blamed unfairly for a tragedy and that the criticism raised issues of class.
In the wake of the death, ITV on Monday had announced it was suspending “The Jeremy Kyle Show,” which had run for over 14 years and attracted about a million viewers per episode. Steve Dymond, 63, was found dead on May 9, a week after he recorded an episode of the show, which had not yet been broadcast. ITV and the British police have not released any details about the circumstances of the man’s death.
But the suspension did not stop an outcry from politicians and therapists who said it was time to cancel the show. Even senior officials got involved. “Broadcasters and production companies have a responsibility for the mental health and well-being of participants and viewers,” a spokesperson for the British prime minister, Theresa May, told the BBC.
Mr. Dymond’s death was far from the first controversy to engulf “The Jeremy Kyle Show,” which has often compared to “The Jerry Springer Show” in America. Lie detector and DNA tests were a staple of the show, and in many episodes Mr. Kyle would take positions on his guest’s problems and openly — some said aggressively — criticize them.
In 2007, a court fined a former guest $385 for head-butting a love rival. The judge in the case, Alan Berg, found fault as much with the show as with the attacker. “It seems to me that the purpose of this show is to effect a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people whose lives are in turmoil,” he wrote in his decision. The show was a “human form of bear baiting,” he added, saying its producers “should in my opinion be in the dock.”
In 2008, a man pointed a loaded gun at his wife’s head a week after recording an episode of the show, according to The Observer, where he had learned he was not the father of their child.
Similar incidents have been found in other talk shows worldwide. In 1995, “The Jenny Jones Show” was caught in a media storm after an episode on gay crushes in which one guest, Scott Amedure, admitted to his friend Jonathan Schmitz that he had a secret crush on him. Three days later, Mr. Schmitz murdered Mr. Amedure. The case was thought to be a turning point for tabloid TV in the United States.
“The Jeremy Kyle Show” had survived its previous controversies, but the current one proved too much. “Now is the right time for the show to end,” Ms. McCall said in her statement.
“I’m pleased, obviously,” Charles Walker, a conservative politician who led calls for the show’s cancellation, said in a telephone interview. “There’s been a degree of complacency among broadcasters” that “they can do pretty much what they like,” he added. “I don’t think that holds water anymore.”
Honey Langcaster-James, a psychologist who has been hired to offer counseling to the participants on many reality shows, including ITV’s popular “Love Island,” said in a telephone interview that she hoped the network would not return to the format.
“In this day and age of greater awareness of mental health, addiction and social and economic strain, I’d like to think they’d take that into account,” she said.
Some have come to the show’s defense, including Deirdre Kelly, who came to attention in Britain after appearing on “Benefits Street,” a documentary series about people who needed government support.
“A man has lost his life — that’s a tragedy in any circumstances,” Ms. Kelly said in a telephone interview. “But canceling the show permanently, I think is a bit of a mistake.”
The show was not only concerned with tawdry topics, she said. It also reunited families, found help for addicts and told inspirational children’s stories.
Danniella Westbrook, an actress and friend of Mr. Kyle, said in a telephone interview that the host was being made a scapegoat. She pointed out that several former contestants on “Love Island” had died by suicide. (In March, ITV issued a statement outlining the mental health services available to current and former “Love Island” contestants after one such death.)
“I think a lot of it is class related — a lot of upper and middle classes banging on about ‘Broken Britain,’” Ms. Westbrook said of the criticism of “The Jeremy Kyle Show.”
Mr. Webster, the politician, said the calls to cancel the series were not patronizing its largely working-class audience or guests. “If people can’t look after themselves,” he said, “we have to look after them.”