When executive producer Paul Faulhaber looks back on the past decade of “Maury,” he sees one major reason for the talk show’s success: host Maury Povich.
“Maury is an incredible broadcaster,” Mr. Faulhaber said. “What makes Maury such a compelling interviewer is that he listens. It’s pure and simple: He’s a great listener. He listens to what people are saying. A lot of broadcasters out there would rather hear themselves talk than listen.”
Since Mr. Povich made his debut as a national talk show host, 65 daytime talk shows have come and gone.
Whether it’s uncovering the true paternity of a guest’s child with DNA test results, reuniting lost loves or making someone’s wish come true, the NBC Universal Domestic Television Distribution show — which kicked off its 10th season on the air Sept. 17 — is one of the most popular syndicated talk shows on the air.
“Maury” was the third-highest-rated talk show among women 18-49 during the 2006-07 television season, according to Nielsen, and delivered the second-youngest audience among talk shows, with a median age of 40.3 years.
The description of a typical “Maury” show may sound similar to “The Jerry Springer Show,” but to Mr. Faulhaber, they are not the same at all. “The ‘Maury’ show is completely different,” he said. “It’s about real people with real problems, as crazy as they sometimes sound. We try to get to the core. A lot of our stories are family-oriented. A lot are about people who are betraying each other in different ways. When we have paternity segments, we have people who are denying their children; that is a subject that Maury is very passionate about.
“Maury has a great way of getting to the heart of the story, and we believe that the truth is a very powerful vehicle. That’s why we do the DNA tests, why we do the lie detector tests. You can talk about it all you want, but we need to get down to the truth to effect any change.”
While TV viewers enjoy the variety of emotions displayed on “Maury,” the critics have consistently lambasted the show. “We don’t care what the critics say,” Mr. Faulhaber said. “I look at the viewers. I read the viewer mail. As executive producer, I’m always taking time out, even with our studio audience, to ask them what they like. It’s the people that matter to us. When the viewers speak, they speak loud and clear — and they do it with ratings. I’ll know the next day if they really rejected a show or if they loved it.”
In 10 years on the air, there have been many memorable shows. “We’ve helped so many people, not only getting closure in their lives with these paternity tests and these infidelity shows, but we’ve given away a home, we’ve given away cars,” said Mr. Faulhaber. “We’ve done shows to help special-needs kids, to help make their lives more manageable. We make wishes come true. The critics never seem to pick up on those episodes. We only do one paternity show a week. Our show really does have a nice balance. Our viewers want variety, and Maury is really good at giving it to them.”
At a time when talk shows appear and disappear from season to season, “Maury’s” longevity is noteworthy. According to Mr. Faulhaber, one of the secrets to its success is keeping it fresh. “It’s a very interesting marketplace out there, but we have a loyal core audience,” he said.
“The problem with having a show on the air 10 years is that every couple of years you have to reinvent it without alienating anyone,” he added. “You have to keep it fresh without completely changing it, because that’s a recipe for disaster. This show is evolving.”
“Maury” relies on audience reaction and uses technology to stay connected to viewers. The Web site is integral to the show’s success. “I push people to the Web site,” Mr. Faulhaber said. “We have insider blogs, video blogs. Polls every day. It’s very successful.
“I think there’s a lot of room for growth. We just had our first Web vote. We did an outrageous talent contest, and we wanted people to vote, so we sent them to the Web site. Over 73,000 votes have been tallied.”
Looking ahead, Mr. Faulhaber is committed to making “Maury” grow. “It’s difficult,” he said. “It’s hard work, but it’s very gratifying. The best thing about it is that every day is different; the worst thing about it is that every day is different. The great thing about working with Maury is that he’s going to take something and always make it better. That’s why he’s so good at what he does. He can take a ‘B’ story and make it an ‘A’ story. He’s just a great broadcaster.”
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