Title: The Sally Jessy Raphael Show Host: Sally Jessy Raphael
Format: One-hour tabloid talk show. Tabloid talk shows are known for inviting controversial guests and setting up moments of conflict or volatility. Subject matter is often melodramatic, prurient and taboo.
Broadcast Information: The Sally Jessy Raphael Show was broadcast in syndication.
Premiere Date: October 17, 1983
Final Air Date: May 24,
Fans of The Sally Jessy Raphael Show will remember her most fondly for her large-rimmed red glasses and ability to host a tongue-in-cheek show with female impersonators one day and then a more serious, tug-at-the-heartstrings show about families or couples in crises the next.
Others will remember that Raphael started out on radio, hosting a call-in advice show on NBC Talknet, a nighttime series of shows on the NBC Radio Network, which ran from throughout the 1980s to 90s. The success of that show depending largely on Raphael’s quick thinking. As the story goes, Raphael was set to host a show dedicated to politics, but decided at the last moment to shift the show’s focus to relationship advice. The show blossomed and Raphael found herself dishing out the goods on more than 200 radio stations across the country.
This was the big time for a journalist who began life in Easton, Penn., was raised primarily in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts
from Columbia University in New York City. She turned her attention to journalism, becoming a news correspondent for the Associated Press and United Press International. That turned into a slew of jobs at more than 20 radio stations. Raphael was a news reporter, disc jockey, talk show host and more. By her own admission, none of those jobs ever really stuck, but she plugged on hoping for success.
Talknet was that success. And one of its biggest fans turned out to be legendary talk show host Phil Donahue. Donahue thought Raphael’s audience rapport was top notch. He reached out to her, suggesting she consider television as an avenue to her approach.
Raphael took Donahue’s advice and tried out for producer Burt Dubrow. Dubrow gave her a shot as a fill-in for a local talk show. And while her style was far from polished, her fans loved that she was on TV. After a couple more outings, and seeing how Raphael was able to translate her laid-back, common sense manner to TV, Raphael was awarded a half-hour talk show on a St. Louis station.
Raphael turned that show into the incredibly popular The Sally Jessy Raphael Show – later just Sally – which ran for nearly 20 years.
Like the other shows on daytime television at the time, Raphael’s focus soon turned to more sensationalistic and taboo topics, moving away from the more common sense advice she often dished out to guests. Unlike her brethren, The Jerry Springer Show and Maury, Raphael kept a rather tongue-in-cheek view of it all. And while her top-rated show ever focused on female breast size, the show never truly degenerated into physical conflict and true bad taste.
The end came in 2002 when the show’s ratings hit their lowest point since its debut in 1983. Tabloid talk shows were in decline, September 11th had recently occurred, and viewers wanted programming that was more light-hearted. Plus, Raphael believed her syndicator was giving more marketing time to Springer and Maury than her show.
Raphael returned to radio for several years before going into semi-retirement. She last appeared on a 2010 episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.