i'm not sure how much of the content of those shows are real, but people are cheaply entertained. look at the shows with the most ratings-pure garbage across the board. it's pretty sad how people are easily exploited for a few dollars and a small amount of short lasting fame to be on any of these shows.
I'm sure some peoples' lives really are that f***ed up. But mostly, shows like Jerry Springer exist because everyone loves to watch a train wreck. The majority of people aren't going around running prostitution rings, having illegitimate children, needing paternity tests, cheating with three other women and a dude, etc.