I have a confession to make. I like watching The Jerry Springer show. Not every week but whenever I feel like a laugh or to see how “the other half lives”. It may come as a surprise to many but as a doctor, the tales I hear are less dissimilar to reality TV than you may think. And it crosses socio-economic and other demographic lines.

Many years ago Jerry Springer was interviewed on Australian TV and asked the perennial question about whether the people on the show were “real” or was it all made up. He replied that the people and situations were real. He added that 98% of people would not go on TV to “wash their dirty linen in public”. Yet the USA had over 300 million people, and hence that 2% represented over 6 million people and a lot of shows.

Former CIA director David Petraeus would not be a likely guest on Springer. He is not “trailer trash” and unlike many of Jerry’s guests has a job. However the plot involving him, another General the biographer, the “other woman” and her twin   is straight from the Jerry Springer show. And of course he is married too!

You could just imagine Jerry walking through the audience, as he does, glancing at his cue card and saying something along the lines of “My guests today are sick and tired of playing second fiddle and want to confront their rivals. Lets meet Jill- Jill what is going on?”

“Well Jerry I came here to confront the woman who sent me emails…” After a bit of elaboration we would then get to meet the other characters one by one. The usual mayhem would erupt.

“Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!”

And there would be the usual helpful advice from audience members.” My comment is for the ex CIA guy. If the head of the CIA can’t keep stuff secret what hope is there for the rest of us?” And “ My comment is for the biographer – If you don’t want people to find out stuff about you, don’t send emails which are a permanent record”.

Jokes aside, this is exactly the same stuff except the “players” have better jobs and live in fancier houses. The bedroom shenanigans are the same.

And it is not new. Press reports describe 1950’s CIA boss Allen Dulles as having a constant stream of women in and out of his office. Bill Clinton who was pilloried over various liaisons was no different to John F. Kennedy except the latter was fortunate to live in an era when who you slept with was your business.

Lets not forget Edward VII, Napoleon, Henry VIII and countless others going back to Biblical times.

According to Thom Shanker writing in The New York Times, military schools which “groom” officers for General or Admiral positions have a reading list. This   includes an essay called “The Bathsheba Syndrome: The Ethical Failure of Successful Leaders”. It is based on the story of King David who sent a soldier on a mission of certain death so he could take his wife, Bathsheba.

The take home massage being, to be careful and act properly.

To quote Ecclesiastes 1:9 “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun”.

Yet every time the obvious happens we are either shocked or outraged. The plot on the Jerry Springer show is always the same. Someone is having sex with another person and cheating on their partner. Only the names and faces change. This time some of the names are famous. Money, position and social status are not relevant.

So why the fascination? We all like stories and in particular stories about people. We like it even more when the story is a bit “racy” and the icing on the cake is when we can feel a bit superior to those in the story.

On regular Jerry, most viewers will feel smugly superior to the guests. On CIA Jerry we can all feel a bit superior seeing a tall poppy being cut down.

Political correctness leads people to use euphemisms and turn themselves inside out, rather than say something is right or wrong. Well some things wrong. And it is the responsibility of the individual who has made those choices, not society or a host of other “I am the victim here” type excuses.

Treating people in a dishonest way is wrong. No amount of excuses or of moral relativism changes this. Ultimately the consequences are for those involved and they have to make decisions about their lives whilst the rest of us turn the page or switch channels.

Relationships are a pillar of good health. The stress in maintaining a covert relationship will impact on the individual (and you could say justly so). Our health benefits when we are not stressed and when we have relationships, which support us. Life is actually too short for toxic relationships.

As Jerry Springer says at the end of his show  “take care of yourselves and each other”.

This is good advice.