Sally Jessy Raphael spent nearly two decades on air as host of the syndicated talk show Sally. But the 81-year-old says she “hated” working on her show during its last years — and blames her producers to driving her into the tabloid subject matter so often associated with Maury Povich and Jerry Springer.
Raphael talked candidly in an exclusive clip from Saturday’s Oprah: Where Are They Now? about the end of her show — which was cancelled in 2002.
Raphael was the first female to host an audience-participation, issue-drive talk show — predating Oprah by nearly three years.
The show began in 1983, covering human interest subjects and hard-hitting news items, but it devolved in its later years into daily stories about feuding relationships or sexual exploits in order to compete with the shock tactics dominating the competition in the 1990s.
It was a move Raphael didn’t like. “The last years of doing those Maury Povich/Jerry Spring shows? I hated them,” she said. “I was betrayed by some of the producers into doing that. Come to think of it, I should have fought harder for what I knew what right — what I knew that I didn’t want to do.”
Low ratings eventually spelled the end of Sally. The host said the hardest part of the show’s cancellation was that she felt she betrayed the show’s staff.
“They told us that the show was going to go on and we had 250 employees,” she explained. “Now some of them said, ‘Sally we need to know if we’re going to be renewed. I want to buy a house or my wife and I want to be pregnant.’ And then within two months after they bought their house and got pregnant or whatever, I had to go in front of the entire crew and staff.”
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She said she never knew the cancellation was coming. “I’m sure there are some who think that I knew all along. I did not. I would not,” Raphael confessed.
Had she to do it over again, Raphael would have done things different.
“I would have said to them ‘I don’t know’ instead of ‘Yes, it’s a go,’ ” she revealed.
Oprah: Where Are They Now? airs Saturdays (10 p.m. ET) on OWN.