“I feel bad for the lady next to me, my right butt-cheek keeps creepin’ over onto her seat.” – The woman seated next to Anna in the ‘Maury’ studio audience when Anna went to the bathroom.
I never liked school when I was younger so, understandably, the school holidays were my favourite time of year. Who would’ve guessed back then that I’d become a school teacher? Anyway, it wasn’t just the time away from school that I loved, there was also my guilty pleasure: Trashy daytime TV. These shows started at about 10:00am and my sister, Sheree, and myself would try to catch them all. Sure, there was The Phil Donahue Show and Jerry Springer, but we both had our favourites; Sheree’s was Ricki Lake and mine was Maury. Sure, I liked Jerry Springer, too, but it all seemed a little contrived. How many “My-conjoined-twin-is-a-cross-dressing-hooker” stories really abound? Maury seemed more “real”. I know that Maury isn’t shown in Singapore, so for those unfamiliar with the show, let Wikipedia fill you in:
Maury has dealt with a variety of issues across its 21 seasons, including—but not limited to—teenage pregnancy, sexual infidelity, paternity test results, uncommon illnesses, makeovers, “out of control” teenagers, transgender individuals, obese children, domestic violence, little people, bullying, and unusual phobias. After the taping of these episodes, guests are often tracked for progress, both on air and on the Maury website. The show in its early years covered topics of a serious nature, including gang warfare.
From 2008 onwards, the most common topic is paternity testing, followed by lie-detector testing. Abusive relationships and “out-of-control” teen girls are approximately tied for a distant third. Updates on previous guests are also a theme, while other topics such as missing children, transgender individuals, and “caught on tape” moments are featured 1–2 times a year.
Some critics denounce Maury as being worse than other similar talk shows, such as The Jerry Springer Show. Like such shows, it uses guests’ serious problems for the entertainment of the viewing audience, but treated with an insincere sympathy. Whitney Matheson wrote about the show in her USA Today column, “Povich’s talk show is, without a doubt, the worst thing on television. Period. Don’t be fooled by the pressed shirt and pleated khakis; Maury is miles farther down the commode than Jerry Springer.”
Now, almost any time you watch the programme, you’ll see either:
- A DNA test to see who the father of someone’s child is, or
- A lie-detector test to see if someone’s partner is cheating.
If you’re unlucky, you occasionally get an ‘Out of Control Teens’ episode, where they send a bunch of 14-year-olds to a prison to “Scare them straight” and show where their lives are heading. Screw it, just have a look for yourself. Someone has edited this clip and dubbed music over the top, but this is still my favourite Maury moment and it should give you the gist:
Anyway, when we were looking up the tickets for ‘Last Week Tonight with John Oliver‘, we found how to get some for Maury and were sent tickets for yesterday’s taping. We were to catch a bus at 3:30pm from West 32 St, between 6th and 7th Avenue, right near Madison Square Garden, to Stamford, Connecticut, but there was a hitch right away…
On Wednesdays, Anna works in a hospital in Brooklyn and this Wednesday began exactly the same as every other, except for one minor problem; Later in the morning there was a man threatening to throw himself from the next building (left). The general consensus was that he wasn’t going to do it because he was up there so long, but the surrounding schools were released as a precautionary measure anyway. He did eventually jump, but there is a decent chance he survived; The photo, left, was taken from a sixth floor window, he was on the fourth and there are no ground floors in the US. Also, apparently the emergency services were trying to put an inflatable mat below. This man’s selfish act could’ve caused significant delays in Anna’s return to Manhattan, but luckily it wasn’t a problem and I hope everything went okay for everyone else dealing with that self-centred dick.
The plan, as per usual, was for me to arrive first, guarantee our spot on the bus and wait for Anna to arrive.
One thing you truly don’t realise so much when you watch shows like these on TV is how large a part the studio audience plays and it’s not just verbal interaction, but how much they are shown. They’re not quick glimpses, either, the audience is almost like another guest, hence Maury’s strict dress code:
- No plain black or plain white shirts
- No sunglasses
- No hats, including Doo Rags, Fitted Caps and Bandanas
- No clothing with large logos
- Audience members not dressed appropriately and who do not follow the rules will be removed.
Easy. I wanted to stand out in the audience, so I found one of the loudest shirts I own, a blue number covered in skull-shaped pineapple cocktails, and headed down to the bus. I got to the side entrance of the Hotel Pennsylvania, where the bus was supposed to be, but all I could find were strung-out junkies and meth-heads and a smattering of bums (right). It sure wasn’t pretty, but not all that dissimilar to Maury’s guest demographic. Eventually, I found a group of large, confused-looking women with their Maury tickets in hand, who appeared baffled as to where the bus should be, as well. I spoke to them in the hope that they might be able to give me even just a little information, but they had no idea either.
Not long after, Anna called to say that she was on her way. She showed up and minutes later one of the producers for the show found us and took us to the bus. We were now on our way.
Our bus ride had to go right through Manhattan, because the entrance to the freeway was closed. Our trip would take us up through Harlem and The Bronx before we entered East Interstate 9 and eventually arrived at Stamford, CT, where the show is filmed. Under normal circumstances and taking the regular route, it’s a journey that should take about an hour. Due to the heavy traffic in the city, it took us nearly an hour and a half to just get to the freeway and it was after 5:30pm by the time we got to the studio. Don’t ask Anna about it, though, she fell asleep as soon as she sat down.
We were asked to sign waivers as soon as we boarded the bus, stating that we allow our images to be shown on TV and would not sue. The rest of the trip involved the producers stressing if we were going to make it on time and asking the bus driver if he knows another way to go.
Those of you familiar with the ‘T-factor’, especially what happened on this occasion, will understand that I start to get worried when things are going a little too smoothly. However, thus far this instance we had dealt with:
- A possible suicide
- An invisible bus
- Impenetrable traffic
Everything should be okay. And it was. When we arrived there were still people going through the metal detectors and a large crowd in the foyer. There were several dance competitions going for people to get guaranteed front-row seats. Numerous groups of people did this, but naturally, the octogenarian, booty-dancing with the security guard (left), was the crowd favourite.
Anyone who has watched Maury before knows the type of guests the show attracts, but most of the audience aren’t whole lot better. Think about it, you need to catch a bus at 3:30pm and the tickets are free, so my guess is that Anna might have been the only non-employee in that whole television studio with a job! This might have been the best people-watching ever! We even witnessed a guy light up a joint in the studio and practically beg the security to let him keep smoking it. They sympathised, but told him he had to wait.
When we had entered the bus, everyone was given a coloured wristband with a number on it. We were herded into the studio according to wristband colour and number, leading Anna and myself to be seated in the second last row of the middle section, two seats from the left aisle when viewed from the stage. There was a warm-up guy before the taping began, but he wasn’t the regular type of warm-up guy, not a budding comedian, but more of an ‘Audience Coach’. Granted, the dude was funny, but his main job was to get us to practice our different reactions, such as the sounds and facial expressions we’ll make when we:
- Are shocked
- Are stunned
- See a picture of a baby
- Support the guest
- Don’t like the guest
We got to stay for two shows, one was all lie-detector tests to see if partners/spouses were cheating, the second was DNA tests to try to find who a baby’s father was. For the latter show, we were told outright that we, under no uncertain terms, must cheer the woman and boo the man until we have a valid reason to change our opinion, ie. the child isn’t his, but he agrees to help raise it, anyway. We both really got into it and by the end of the first show the two of us were both a little hoarse. I, and the guy next to me, kept making mistakes, cheering the wrong person, clapping and booing at the same time, that kind of thing. A few more pictures from the night:
It was an awesome night, we both had a blast and I got to live a teenage dream. If you watch Maury in the next couple of weeks and see a haggard old lady with a flower in her hair who keeps using the phrase “Hot Crotch”, another woman who thinks she’s from North Georgia, but isn’t certain, or a retarded-looking guy called Israel, of whom they keep showing footage of climbing onto a block of granite and then goes on to propose to his girlfriend, look for Anna and myself at the back of the crowd. I’ll be the really tall guy in the second last row in the shirt with pineapples on it, behind the chick with the enormous ass! You’ll probably see a lot of the old woman who was dancing, too.
We left at around 10:00pm, arrived back in New York at about 11:00pm, but we hadn’t eaten since lunch. We had to walk through Korea-town to get home, so we stopped off at a great Korean restaurant for dinner, but no matter how good the food was, it was only the second best purchase of the night. Number one? This t-shirt:
*I did want the “You are NOT the father” shirt, but they were sold out. Maybe I can get one on Monday when we go back again to see Jerry Springer