For a guy who is celebrating his 50th year in journalism and TV, news anchor-turned-talk show host Maury Povich doesn’t seem to take himself very seriously.
“I’m calling from my dressing room,” said Povich over the phone Friday, sarcastically adding, “After I finish I speaking to you, I’m doing — wow — a paternity show. Can you believe it?”
Povich is well aware that his “Maury” talk show is best known for its frequent paternity-themed episodes (you know, the ones where Povich announces “you are the father” or “you are not the father”), but he doesn’t seem to mind. After all, the ratings are strong and only seem to be getting stronger. Povich claimed last week’s ratings were as high as they’ve been in years.
“Any research company will tell you it’s a huge oddity that a talk show gets younger and more popular as the show and host get older,” said Povich, 73, who will tape his show in Chicago Tuesday at WGN’s studios. The episode will be an “update show” and will feature past guests.
Why does “Maury” — which also features episodes revolving around out-of-control teenagers, bizarre phobias and spouses suspected of cheating — appeal to audiences?
“They touch so many classic themes, whether it’s love, distrust, conflict, drama,” Povich said. “And the paternity shows in particular, you’ve got he-said, she-said, is-he-the-father, isn’t-he. While soap operas play those themes out over six months, we play them out over 12 minutes.”
Long before he was reading the results of paternity tests and lie detector tests, Povich was a news anchor in various cities, including Chicago. He began working at WMAQ in Chicago in 1977 but would part ways with the station fewer than nine months later due to a dispute with management over his assigned time slot.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise — his next gig was co-anchoring the news in Los Angles with his future wife, Connie Chung — but he wishes his initial stay in Chicago lasted longer.
“(Chicago) is the best news town in the country,” Povich said. “It’s the only news town I’ve ever been in where TV competes directly with newspapers. Most other towns, TV follows newspapers. … Another great aspect — news people from TV and the papers used to meet after work every night to chew over stories. We all felt we were on the same level and would congratulate each other for beating each other on a story.”
In addition to his time as a news anchor and host of “A Current Affair” and “Maury,” Povich was the executive producer on the Oscar-winning documentary “Twin Towers.” Early in his career he hosted a Washington DC-based talk show called “Panorama” that became well known in the political world. But he doesn’t expect you to know that — or the fact that his father was legendary sportswriter Shirley Povich.
“I always felt I was a contradiction,” Povich said of his legacy. “People think of me one way, but I’m kind of different.”
Povich admitted he never imagined his talk show would turn into what it is today when it began in 1991. He said the show, originally called “The Maury Povich Show” used to cover more “timid subjects.” That would change in the late ‘90s. “The Maury Povich Show” was renamed “Maury” and the format was revamped. I doubt Povich is disappointed. The show is in its 21st season, with more on the way.
“I want to do the show as long as it’s doing well and I’m feeling well doing it,” Povich said. “But I don’t want do it when I’m as old as Regis. I’m not going to last that long.”