Maury Povich, Controversial Pioneer of Tabloid TV, Gets Lifetime Achievement Award

He was once ranked number seven among the Top Ten Pioneers of what critics called “Trash TV” ahead of Phil Donahue, Sally Jessy Raphael and Jenny Jones, but behind number one Jerry Springer. Povich said he wanted to step down from his talk show six years before he actually did, but the top brass at NBC Universal convinced him to stay until September, 2022–because it meant his 31 year run would set the record for longest talk show host in tv history. (For comparison, Oprah Winfrey stepped down from her syndicated talk show after 25 years) The gambit paid off. Now the brash pioneer of tabloid tv and longtime resident of the Dakota, is getting a Lifetime Achievement Award from the prestigious National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

| 05 Jul 2023 | 02:04

Talk about spirit. This man still has it at 84, and now he is being rewarded for it.

Maury Povich has lived with his famous wife in the Dakota for decades: She had an apartment there first and when he’d come to visit, the doormen would call him Mr. Chung. Well, It was just announced that Povich will be receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. This, for being the longest-term daytime talk show host. His latest (of many) gigs ran from 1998 to September, 2022.

Povich admits he has mixed feelings about the award. “I remember when Gregory Peck got a lifetime honor and said it had sort of an ominous ring to it,” he laughs. “But, you know, I’ve been an easy target for years of critics, so it feels good in my later years.” Those critics often smirked at episodes like “Furious Moms vs. Dads in Denial,” and “DNA Will Prove You Named Your Son After The Wrong Man.”

The template was set early on. “The Maury Povich Show” was reflagged as simply, “Maury” in 1998, the name it kept until its last show was broadcast in September, 2022. The relaunch opened with an episode entitled, “Who’s Your Daddy?”

“About seven years into what was a basic talk show format,” Povich recalls, “our producer suggested we should add drama and conflict. That we should focus on couples living together but accusing each other of cheating. And women demanding paternity tests. But, you know what? Over 20 years, we literally brought hundreds of families back together. And on many occasions, fathers actually got involved raising children they didn’t know they had.” Povich made an interesting choice as host. He wanted no spoiler alerts, not even for him. “I didn’t want to know any more than my guests or audiences,” he says. “So, we all got the results at the same time.”

Now, about that famous wife. That would be Connie Chung. (Did you see the recent NYT piece about a whole generation of Asian girls named Connie?) They met in Washington at a station in the early ‘80s, when she was an executive’s assistant and he was an on-air newsman. Countless jobs later—“five different cities over eight years,”—he ended up with Chung again, at the CBS station in Los Angeles, KNXT “But this time, she was a star, and I was suddenly her second banana,” says Povich. “She told me the only way she could love me was by taking pity on me.” His job there lasted only six months before he was ousted in a management shakeup. He next found himself heading to San Francisco and then eventually back to Washington D.C. where he returned to hosting “Panorama.”

Eventually, she got a job in New York and Povich was commuting from his job in Washington. They were wed in the Dakota, in 1984. And actually got to live in the same city when Rupert Murdoch’s 20th Century Fox brought him to NYC to host the tabloid infotainment show A Current Affair.

And, almost like an episode of his show, they later went public with their quest to have a child. They finally adopted a son, Matthew, now 28 and living in Montana, where the couple also has a home and own and operate a local newspaper, The Flathead Beacon.

They’ve shepherded the local weekly and web site to modest profitability, but tend to stay out of the way and let the local staff operate it.

Their spacious apartment at the Dakota is filled with gorgeous antiques and seems to go on endlessly. They have visited neighbor Yoko Ono and other starry names. Povich would consider moving out, but “Connie says we are going toes up in this place.”

The Lifetime Achievement Award is no small thing, especially for one who was surrounded by a family of stars. His brother is a prestigious lawyer, his sister, Lynn, (who also lives on the UWS) a highly respected magazine editor who campaigned for women’s rights at Newsweek and was later the Editor in Chief of Working Woman magazine. Their late father, named Shirley, was arguably the country’s most powerful—if oddly named—sportswriter. (He once was named most outstanding FEMALE sportswriter by an obviously clueless entity.) A prestigious clan, but not a competitive one. “Our father laid down the law very early,” he says, “that Poviches will always support Poviches.” He recalls when he was fired from the CBS station, and called his dad to confess he’d lost his job and was getting divorced. “My father said get all the sharp instruments out of your house.” I was at the Povich-Chung wedding and still remember that Shirley was a man of few but interesting words. “Well, Maury, you got lucky again,” was his brief toast.

“Maury is the consummate TV broadcaster,” says his sister, Lynn. “He can report, write, investigate, anchor and host a live audience. He’s passionate about his subject and cares about his viewers. So I’m delighted that the Academy is honoring him with this Lifetime Achievement Award. “

Life is good now. Povich has officially retired and he is never bored. The person who knows him best explains, “Nobody knows that Maury is a history buff and political buff with a voracious appetite for reading,” says Chung. “I always say to him, ‘why don’t you do a serious interview program? You could run circles around those self-declared intellectual interviewers. You are so smart, so well-read, such a good interviewer. He says to me, ‘as long as you know that, I’m fine.’ That’s who Maury is.”

Michele Willens is the author of From Mouseketeers to Menopause.