Chung, Povich on the Lighter Side

Jan 2, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The last time Connie Chung co-anchored a half-hour national news program with a man, it wasn’t much fun.

But a decade after the end of her strained on-screen marriage with Dan Rather on the “CBS Evening News,” Ms. Chung is going to try it again-this time on MSNBC with her real-life husband, talk show host Maury Povich, and guided by an executive producer whose sharp tongue is firmly in cheek.

“Weekends With Maury & Connie,” which debuts at 10 a.m. Saturday, will be executive produced by Lizz Winstead, co-creator of Comedy Central’s fake newscast “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.” Her job now is to coax Ms. Chung and Mr. Povich, who have been married since 1984, into playing against public type and having fun with real news and interviews.

In test runs for their new show, for example, it was discovered that it is possible to reserve tickets on a bus tour of disaster sites. The subject of training judges to try former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was also discussed.

“It’s Connie Chung in a way you’ve never seen her and it’s Maury Povich in a way you don’t know him,” she said. “These people are irreverent. They have a sense of humor.

“You’ll see a Maury who is not searching for the paternity of children around the country. He’s smart. He’s very good at getting to the heart of the matter,” said Ms. Winstead, who said she has enjoyed seeing Ms. Chung in test tapings “being really funny and breaking out of her nonpartisan shell and being able to have an opinion and talk about things she really cares about.”

Ms. Chung and Mr. Povich poke fun at themselves and their careers-including dashed dreams of a syndicated news show in 1996-and each other in his-and-hers campaign-style promos that have been running on MSNBC. According to Ms. Chung’s spot, her career started at a place so small, she had to share a desk, whereupon the camera pulls back to reveal that she’s sitting next to Mr. Rather on the anchor desk of the doomed-to-be-third-place “Evening News.” The spot sums up her career with the word “fired” and the logos of all the TV news organizations for which she worked up until CNN canceled “Connie Chung Tonight” after less than a year in March 2003.

After asking viewers to support her mainstream approach and reject the “morally bankrupt” philosophy of Mr. Povich-whose talk show “Maury,” syndicated by MSNBC stablemate NBC Universal Television Distribution, has become defined by “who’s your daddy?” genetic tests-Ms. Chung executes a snappy salute and assures the audience: “I’m Connie Chung, and I approved this message.”

In his promos, Mr. Povich delivers paternity verdicts to “Maury” guests, extols his “common-sense approach” versus the “radical extremist” ideas of Ms. Chung (looking particularly ferocious in the spot) and concludes with a vow that he also approved his message.

The eye-catching spots were produced by MSNBC’s promo department and The Agency at sister network NBC with creative input from Ms. Winstead and “Weekends With Maury & Connie” senior producer Jonathan Larsen, with whom Ms. Winstead worked at Air America. She was on the launch team of the left-leaning radio operation and left less than a year later.

Asked about the differences between having fun with fake news for Comedy Central and having fun with real news for MSNBC (which will tape “Weekends With Maury & Connie” Friday afternoons and repeat the programs at 4 p.m. (ET) Saturdays and 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Sundays), Ms. Winstead doesn’t miss a beat: “We had a much bigger budget on ‘The Daily Show.’ On ‘The Daily Show’ we had something called writers. On this show we have something called Lizz.”