Hyphen’s Long Travelled Thoughts: Maury Gets Results

I’m old. While only 29, I still have seen some things in my day. I remember when The Maury Povich Show was on. And this wasn’t theMaury we all love (and loathe) today. This is when Maury, along with the Sally Jessy Raphaels, Phil Donahues, Ricki Lakes, and Geraldo Riveras of the world where constantly chasing Oprah Winfrey’s mega-blockbuster of a show.

The Maury Povich Show had a simple format. Some people came on to confess their infidelity to their spouses, others would come on and speak of horrible experiences, and some would come on in an effort to find love. It was a potpourri of content. Since I only had 4 channels from 1992-1995 in Capon Bridge, West Virginia, I welcomed these various characters into my TV room. It was better than pulling weeds in the hot summer sun at the time.

Then, The Jerry Springer Show ushered in a new era. Jerry’s turn towards more provocative content had paid off, as his became one of the first shows to beat Oprah in 1997.

While Jerry would put virtually anything on his stage as long as the censors could block it, Maury took a different approach. He started announcing the results of paternity and lie detector tests on the show. Even though this was a much tamer approach to Springer’s daily vulgarity, viewers found themselves tuning in to find out the on-the-spot results. Soon, sides were being chosen as women would side with the accusing mothers and men would root for the alleged baby fathers.

But why?

I’ve watched my share of crappy television. But I can never understand why people are so passionate about Maury. It seems like the most outrageous couples are brought on just so they can look bad. What about the recently married college educated couple coming on to find out the truth? Or the middle class family who have wondered for years about their child’s true lineage? Instead, the worst of the worst are brought on to slug it out verbally for 5 minutes before Maury opens his famous envelope containing the results.

Of course, this is where the comedy enters for me. While the lie detector shows holds my attention, it’s the paternity tests results that cause me to burst into fits of laughter. Nothing is better when a mother brings on 2 (or more!) men claiming that one of them is her baby’s father and when Maury reads the results: none of them are. For some reason, the moms see fit to run off stage crying (probably because they just revealed on television that they can’t remember who they’ve had sex with), leading Maury to walk backstage and offer words of encouragement. Meanwhile, the exonerated men tend to erupt into celebrations like this one that can be seen all over YouTube. Some women have even appeared multiple times in an effort to find their baby’s father.

The next thing I always end up thinking when I’m watching Maury: Is this scripted? I know that people have come forth claiming that Springer is scripted but Maury too? A brief search of the internet provided a few Yahoo Answers claiming that it was written and that some guests even made $5,000 for their appearance. With MTV leading the charge a few years ago, it’s not unrealistic to think that all reality shows are somehow tampered with somehow. Why not our talk shows? With less and less people tuning into daytime television once the news and sports broadcasts have ended, why not add a little flair to an otherwise normal show?

Since Oprah’s “retirement” in 2011, Maury’s show is enjoying its best ratings in 5 years. And as much as I like to trash the show and the guests that appear onstage, I always seem to find a way to tune in to hear, “You are NOT the father!” If I really cared about how bad the show makes society look, I should be boycotting every airing and denouncing all the millions Maury takes home every year.

Instead, I’ll just drop my head in shame and wait for the next viewing. When you stumble across ratings gold, you shouldn’t do anything to turn it into worthless coal.

Do your thing Maury. I ain’t (too) mad at you.


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