Picks and Pans Review: Current Affairs
As celebrity auto-bio subjects go, Povich is an odd choice. The original host of Fox TV's A Current Affair has neither Cronkitean credibility nor the gullible following of someone like Geraldo.
A reasonably successful but barely famous midlevel broadcast journalist before his stint on ACA, Povich admits that, for years, he was known in the business as Mr. Connie Chung, thanks to his second marriage to the CBS newswoman. That he is now cashing in on his 15 minutes of fame might seem reprehensible were it not for the winning, self-effacing way in which he does it; in this memoir, written with PEOPLE senior writer Ken Gross, he comes across as a nice guy who was liked enough and lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.
A Current Affair was not Povich's idea; he says that for months after he was tapped for the job by his boss, Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch, he didn't really "get" the show. Most of this book is about his development of the arch, skeptical persona he displayed as host and about the outlaw personalities who staffed the show. Wisely avoiding too much personal revelation (when Chung altered her broadcast schedule to accommodate the couple's baby-making plans, the announcement led to both headlines and satirical commentary), Povich presents an insider's view of tabloid television. It's sometimes defensive (Povich tries desperately to make a case for "playful journalism" that isn't afraid to break the rules) and occasionally manipulative. Some readers may have trouble believing that Povich is really a "wide-eyed idealist."
Still, you can't help but like a guy who makes nasty, knowing comments about former superior Ian Rae: "I could tell that he was serious, because Ian didn't joke, especially not in a holy place like a gathering of important rich people." And when it comes to insider gossip on Robert Chambers, Mary Beth Whitehead and other infamous news subjects of the late '80s, Current Affairs is fascinating. For better or worse, you feel like you're sitting in a smoky beer joint eavesdropping on a world-weary reporter telling war stories. (Putnam, $19.95)