A fourth hour of Today, and Meredith keeps me from falling - TCA Report
Of course, the show's signature easy-going goofiness was in evidence. Matt Lauer: "I see you all typing away on your laptops, and I'm not going to tell you what your headline should be. But the headline we think should be 'Today show crew boringly happy.'" Meredith joked about kissing a monkey on the show earlier that morning: "I can't get over the fact I kissed a monkey this morning. I initiated it, and quite frankly, I can't stop thinking about it."
According to Bell and Capus, the new fourth hour, set to begin in September, will be an extension of the first three; it'll look and sound like Today. The content mix is undetermined at this time, as are the hosts, but "it'll maintain the Today brand integrity and quality," said Bell. "It might be a little lighter but it will be of the highest quality."
Matt Lauer was asked about his previous statements about how the fourth hour might be one too many. "You don't want it to dilute the brand," he said. "I have great confidence, and I think that the brand can sustain it, I really do. I just don't want to get to the point where somebody asks me to leave the party before I want to go."
Two things might be affected by this fourth hour: the anchors' and producers' post-show work getting future guests booked, and the west-coast update of the show's first 30 minutes, which are taped at... uh... 10 AM. How will they accomplish this, especially if there's breaking news "We've initiated the NBC Universal Cloning Project." quipped Al Roker. Bell said, "We're going to find ourselves having to make the tough choices as to what to put in," while Capus said, "We're not going to sacrifice the first two hours," unless, of course, the breaking story is huge.
In one of the more interesting moments, a reporter asked Matt who he likes better, Meredith or Katie Couric. "That's just a terrible question. It's a different dynamic. I love-- I had ten great years with Katie sitting next to me." But he loves the perspective Meredith brings. He went on to say, "Katie and I were at a point where we could complete each other's sentences. Meredith and I aren't there yet on that timing, but chemistry-wise and the way we like each other..." Meredith interrupted Matt and said "Don't touch me again, please," which made the jaded crowd laugh.
When I went up to the stage after the session, I spoke to Al, Ann, and Meredith. Ann really is as touchy-feely as she is on TV, often punctuating her answers to me with a touch on the arm or something similar. If this were a bar, I'd almost think she was flirting with me. Meredith is as warm as she projects on the air, too; as I was walking off stage with her and a group of reporters, I tripped on the stairs (FYI, I was stepping sideways and holding a recorder up as I got to those stairs. No excuse for my lack of coordination, though). Meredith caught me.
"Are you OK, sweetie?" said Meredith. When I said I'm fine, Meredith said "I almost did that, too." Ann came up behind us and quipped to Meredith, "Did you push him off?" And Meredith finished with "You're not going to sue or anything, are you?"
Those Today folks; always quick with the lines. But they made me feel a little less embarrassed, and for that, I thank them. I'll have quotes from the interviews I did with them later.