It's hardly an original observation that the walls between supposedly legitimate television journalism and what was once considered tabloid trash have broken down over the years.
But one man uniquely qualified to make that observation - Maury Povich - makes it rather strongly.Povich, a one-time local news reporter and anchorman who went on to host the tabloid show "A Current Affair" and then his own daytime talk show, is also married to network newswoman Connie Chung, who is now a reporter for ABC's prime-time news magazines. And with his tongue only half planted in cheek, Povich said he has plans for the upcoming season.
"We pledge to take back all the stories that my wife and all of her colleagues on the prime-time magazines have stolen," Povich said. "They've taken and stolen all of our stories. They're all talk-show stories. So don't think that the prime-time news magazines don't know about daytime talk and the issues and the subject matter that are covered because they're doing them every single night."
Actually, if all had worked according to plan, Povich wouldn't be hosting a daytime talk show anymore. He and Chung - partnered with the DreamWorks studio - had planned a five-nights-a-week syndicated news show they would co-anchor this fall.
But, due to an underwhelming response from local stations across the country, those plans were canceled.
"We attempted with DreamWorks to do something very different," Povich said. "Guess what? The marketplace didn't bite. It wasn't our fault for trying.
"They didn't buy it because of all the politics built into station groups and everything else. They went their old same road, meaning `Wheel (of Fortune)' and `Jeopardy!' and `Entertainment Tonight' and `Access Hollywood' and `Extra.' They didn't want to change because they felt so much pressure (to deliver ratings).
"We were disappointed by that. And then we went off and did what we wanted to do."
For Chung, that meant taking a job at ABC. As for Povich, he went back into the daytime talk-show wars - albeit at a different address.
He left Paramount, which has produced "Maury Povich" for the past eight seasons, and moved over to Studios USA (formerly Universal Television). His new show has a familiar name ("Maury") and a familiar format - one-topic discussion with audience participation.
In addition to a new set, Povich promises we're going to see a new Maury as well. Or, at least, a modified Maury.
"I am going to position myself as a talk-show host who will reveal himself more on the air than I have ever done in the past," he said. "I mean, I will take a more personal approach to the show. I will be much more involved with the guests and the issues on the show. I will explore issues in a very personal way."
And, apparently, that means we're going to be hearing more of what Maury thinks about whatever the topic of the day is.
"I think, for instance, on relationship shows when either spouse is treating the other miserably . . . I think you have to pick them up by the scruff of the neck and not admonish them, but just point out in terms of how ridiculous their behavior is," Povich said.
But don't expect the new "Maury" to back away from the sometimes freakish topics that are the stuff of daytime talk shows.
"We can explore issues that heretofore we have been reluctant on our show to explore," he said. "And that doesn't mean that we're going to sensationalize topics or we're going to sensationalize material. It does mean that we will deal with sensational material, but we will also deal with it in a way that we feel is credible and legitimate and appealing to our viewers."
(A tall task indeed.)
For now, at least, Povich will remain a daytime talk staple. The chance for Povich and Chung to work together has passed. And it was sort of an outside chance, given their different outlooks on their professions.
"Years ago, (Fox chieftain) Rupert Murdoch asked my wife to co-host `A Current Affair' with me," Povich said. "And my wife's answer to Murdoch is the same answer she would give to you: `My husband does that better than I do.' "
And he isn't interested in following Chung into the network news business. (Not that anyone has asked him, of course.)
"My wife is very comfortable in the network setting. I am not," Povich said. "I can't handle that. I can't stretch myself. I can't do that. I can't be insulated by a network. I've always marched to a different drummer. I've never been able to handle those constraints or those limitations."
- SLOW LEARNER: Donny Osmond's most famous moment on a talk show was his unfortunate rude remark about Rosie O'Don-nell's weight soon after her show premiered.
When Donny told her he was planning to fly into Brigham Young University's Stadium of Fire hanging from a helicopter, Rosie expressed concerns for his safety and offered to take his place. Donny told Rosie there were limits as to how much weight the helicopter could carry.
For a long time - including during his return appearance on "Rosie" - Donny tried to defend himself. He's finally wised up to the fact that he really can't.
"First of all, it was a big faux pas on my part. A big mistake," he said in response to a question about the incident during a recent interview. "You've got to be careful what you say. You've got to have an edit button."
And he applauded O'Donnell's approach of turning his weak joke into an ongoing humor element on her show. (She repeatedly made reference to how Donny called her "fat.")
"What happened was, she is so intelligent she took the opportunity to embellish it and make it such a great joke," Donny said. "My hat's off to her for taking it and making it as big as it was."
Which is pretty much the way he should have handled the situation from the start.
NOT THRILLED: A clip from one of those "Donny & Marie" practice shows featured comedian Don Rick-les, who deadpanned, "This is my dream - to meet people from Utah."
NOT A FAN? Asked what he thought of his sister's failed sitcom "Maybe This Time," which aired briefly on ABC a couple of seasons back, Donny sort of hemmed and hawed for a few moments.
"Did you ever see it?" Marie asked.
"You know, actually I didn't," Donny admitted.
But Marie came to her brother's defense, pointing out that he was starring in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" in Chi-ca-go at the time.
"When you do theater, you don't have time to watch TV," she said.
"Well, I saw a couple of them," Donny said.