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A fourth hour of Today, and Meredith keeps me from falling - TCA Report

by Joel Keller, posted Jan 18th 2007 10:17AM
Today crewProbably the least-surprising news to come out of yesterday's NBC sessions was that the network is going to expand Today to a fourth hour. NBC News president Steve Capus and Today executive producer Jim Bell paneled with Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker, and Ann Curry to discuss the move as well as the show's year of transition.

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.

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E. Doss

I like the entire crew, including the weekend gang, but two hours are about right for me. Sometimes the giggling gets on my nerves.

January 20 2007 at 9:58 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am kinda jealous that you got to meet Meredith. She's always so funny whenever she appears on Letterman or Conan, and she looks great for someone her age.

Meredith is much better than Katie imo on the Today Show.

January 18 2007 at 12:56 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Once Again they have Live with Regis they can show on all NBC networks for an hour. They even said they wanted more talk shows and there is one right there! My local network shows Live at 9am and then shows the third hour of Today at 10. If this keeps up it will be news from 5am to noon except for the break for Live.

And Matt Lauer also said that 3 hours was too long, and said some bad thnigs about the idea of the third hour.

January 18 2007 at 11:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Little detail I forgot to add to my report: Meredith is contractually obligated by her Buena Vista / Millionaire deal to disappear from NBC screens after 9 AM. "Because somehwere, Millionaire is on," she said. That's why you won't see her on the third or fourth hour.

As for Matt, well, I guess he's busy trying to get the next day's show going. What do you folks think he's doing?

January 18 2007 at 11:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jeannine McKenna

So if the TODAY show is going to expand another hour, how do they plan to fill it? As it is; Matt & Meredith disappear after 9am every morning and Ann, Al & Natalie take over for the last hour. I like Natalie and thnk she should be a "permanent" regular. But I think Matt & Meredith should also stay on the show longer, also. And if the show does extend, then the producer will need to keep the musical guests longer, also. I think the show is still great-but I still miss Katie. But keep up the good work Matt, Meredith, Ann, Al & Natalie, I love watching y'all every morning. ; )

January 18 2007 at 11:04 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I love the chemistry that Meredith has brought to the Today show. I'm not thrilled about the 4th hour though. The 3rd hour isn't that great so I can't imagine the 4th hour will be better. The Today show is my morning show and I've watched it for years. As much as I liked Katie years ago, I was tired of her by the time she left. So Meredith was a nice change and there is much more humor between the anchors than there use to be.

January 18 2007 at 10:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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