With his 70th birthday this month and 18 seasons of his talk show, Maury, under his belt, one might think Maury Povich would pack up his paternity test kit and finally call it quits. No chance, says the former KYW anchor, whose name, much like those of Murrow and Cronkite before him, has become synonymous with certain phrases — in this case, “Baby mama drama,” “Who’s your daddy?” and “Oh no she didn’t just call me a bitch!” Povich checks in to defend the societal value of his program, give advice to President Obama, and reveal how he struck fear in the heart of Jim Gardner.
You have an Emmy for broadcast journalism. Your father was a sportswriter for the Washington Post. Your wife is Connie Chung. How did you end up doing shows like “My Fear of Pickles Is Ruining My Life” and “4 Men, 1 Woman, 1 Baby — Who Is the Father?” Well, I always beat to a different drummer. I was a reporter, then an anchor, then a Today Show-type host, and I found that kind of confining. I wanted to have some fun with infotainment, and it led to this crazy show called A Current Affair.
That was one of the first tabloid TV shows. Do you feel responsible for our national obsession with this crap? I plead guilty. The Current Affair environment has definitely spilled into network, cable and local news. I feel I’ve liberated the media. [laughs]
Is it possible to pick one Maury episode that’s the most memorable? I had a woman who had twins, and the father was the father of one of the twins and not the other. Fraternal twins, two separate eggs. It’s like a one-in-a-million chance. But it can happen. [laughs]
Can you single out one show that you regret, or do they all blur together in a vast sea of abject remorse? The shows with women who come back 10 times and are still looking for the father. I don’t regret doing them. I just regret not having a conclusion.
Have you ever rejected a show topic, like “Watch Me Stab My Deadbeat Baby Daddy in the Neck?” I’ve never rejected a paternity show, but I don’t do religious themes. Religion’s so personal.
USA Today said this: “Povich’s talk show is, without a doubt, the worst thing on television. … Maury is miles farther down the commode than Jerry Springer.” Does that make you feel like a pioneer of sorts? [Pauses] They are way out on a limb if they think I’m down the toilet from Jerry. Jerry’s an old friend of mine. But he describes his show as a wrestling match, as theater. I do shows on sensitive, crucial underlying social issues in this country. These are issues that politicians do not deal with.