An Affair To Remember
Povich has helped redefine news and talk
By Paige Albiniak -- Broadcasting & Cable, 10/24/2004 8:00:00 PM
Maury Povich is usually seen on stage cuddling obese babies or soothing the hurt feelings of single mothers. But there's more to him than crazy daytime TV. The newsman–turned–talk-show host is also the producer of Twin Towers, an Oscar-winning short documentary film, a 20-year pal of President George W. Bush and practically a scratch golfer.
And he has news in his blood. He's the son of acclaimed Washington Post sportswriter Shirley Povich; his sister is a senior editor at Newsweek; and his brother-in-law is the editor-in-chief of Business Week.
Povich kicked off his 42- year career as a sports and general-assignment reporter on WWDC(FM) Washington, spending his days covering the Kennedy White House and his nights giving sports scores.
Ever ambitious, he jumped to Metromedia's WTTG(TV) as a sportscaster, anchor and later host of Panorama. Povich was at the D.C. station seven days a week, says Bob Bennett, the station owner who gave Povich his first break. "He never had a day off," Bennett remembers. "That's probably what made him successful," he muses. "He really enjoyed what he did, and it came easy for him."
Bennett, an innovator, was the first to put a 10 p.m. newscast on the air when the Big Three were running news only at 11 p.m. Locally produced Panorama was a precursor to CNN, airing news three hours a day and grabbing the attention of the capital's politicians and bureaucrats.
But after working at WTTG for 11 years, Povich wanted to stretch his wings.
Thus began a seven-year journey, during which he anchored newscasts in Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia. The best part of the odyssey was meeting his wife of 20 years, Connie Chung, while in Los Angeles. But he didn't click in other markets the way he had in Washington, where he had driven the station's newscasts to No. 1.
In 1983, Povich was working in Philadelphia when Bennett, by then head of Metromedia, wooed him back to WTTG. Povich's return immediately raised the station's profile, but it wasn't long before Rupert Murdoch bought Metromedia and turned all its properties into Fox affiliates.
Three years later, Povich got a fateful call from Murdoch. "He had this idea for A Current Affair," Povich says, "and suggested I get together with these Australian newspaper people he'd hired to work out what the show would be. Those crazy Aussies and me got along so well. I didn't have this stuffy view of news like the networks did," he adds. "The networks always dumped on our show—and they ended up parroting it."
Five years into A Current Affair, Lucy Salhany, then president of Paramount syndication, offered Povich his own talk show. "She was very smart," he recalls. "We were doing great against Entertainment Tonight. I don't think she gave a damn whether I could do a talk show. She just wanted me off of A Current Affair."
Still, Povich took the bait, and Paramount began producing The Maury Povich Show, facing The Oprah Winfrey Show, Donahue, Geraldo, Jerry Springer and Montel Williams. "It was a highly competitive world, and we did very well for seven years," he says.
Once the show's contract ended with Paramount, Universal acquired it, renamed it Maury and brought executive producer Amy Rosenblum on board. "There's no topic he feels uncomfortable with," Rosenblum says. "He's proud of what we do, and he's taught me to be like that."
And Povich, who has reupped to do three more years, refuses to slow down. "In 40 years of being on television, I've been on the air every day," he says. "Every day is a fresh chapter.
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