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NBC, 'Maury' in Talks

NBC Universal is still in negotiations with Maury Povich to keep Maury, its top-rated daily talk show. The syndicator's contract with Povich expires at the end of this season, its eighth. NBC doesn't comment on ongoing talks.

Povich says he is optimistic, noting that tentative carriage agreements are in place and can be finalized quickly once a deal is reached. He originated The Maury Povich Show at Paramount in 1991, which ran until 1998, when Universal lured him away.

“We're trying to dot the i's and cross the t's and have a future together,” he says. The 66-year-old host says he is not ready to retire from broadcasting but expects Maury will be the last show he hosts.

Povich likens his role to an uncle in an extended family, especially for his viewers in their teens and 20s. “I don't know why and quite frankly don't want to consider why I'm allowed in the house,” he says. “All I know is that something connects.”

Povich says his show resembles a soap opera that gives viewers immediate gratification. He strives to present a full real-life drama over the course of an hour. Two of the themes he showcases: paternity tests to help single moms get support from the father of their children, and stories about young people who get into trouble, including 13- and 14-year-olds who want to get pregnant.

“Soap operas deal with the same kind of issues in a fictional way. It will take them six months to get through a storyline,” he says. “We can bring the beginning, middle and end, all the emotions and elements of the story to a conclusion within an hour.”

Critics say the drama is overdone, creating a carnival atmosphere in which guests frequently shout obscenities at each other. “It's about extreme humiliation and victimization of the guests,” says Linda Voorhees, a professor at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television.

Still, the formula has worked for Povich. Maury is the No. 4 talk show in daily syndication, with an average 2.9 national household rating season-to-date. It's behind The Oprah Winfrey Show (7.6 rating), Dr. Phil (5.2) and Live With Regis and Kelly (3.5).

If NBC Universal and Povich re-up, Povich will be back this fall for his 20th straight year hosting a syndicated show. Before Maury, which debuted in 1998, he anchored Twentieth Television's A Current Affair (1986-91).