11 October 2012

Facing Low Ratings, ‘Today’ Show Mulls Guthrie’s Future

Guthrie: In the competitive world of morning television, it’s never too soon to start updating her résumé.

NEW YORK -- Faced with declining ratings and negative press like this article from the Associated Press, Today Show executive producer Jim Bell has suggested that Savannah Guthrie may step down after only three months as co-host of the long-running NBC program, “provided she can still walk after the send-off we’re planning.” In July, Guthrie had replaced Ann Curry, who was removed from the co-host position after only 11 months on the job.

“We owe it to ourselves, we owe it to our audience, and we owe it to our ratings to get rid of Savannah in a way that is even more spectacular and publicly humiliating than the way we got rid of Ann,” Bell told television reporters in a conference call today.

Bell called reports that co-host Matt Lauer will strip to his underwear and flog Guthrie before a live audience in Rockefeller Plaza during a segment of Today “totally false and unsubstantiated rumors, albeit highly intriguing.”

Today’s “on-air ‘family’,” from left: Natalie Morales, Guthrie,
Al Roker, and Lauer.

Curry’s departure was “on the right track but, really, too small-scale, too Jane Pauley,” Bell said. “Savannah is no Deborah Norville. She’s unique. We definitely want something bigger, up-to-date, and glamorous for her, something that will really score high in the ratings against our competitors at Good Morning America.”

The AP said of Curry’s final broadcast as co-host, on June 28, “She cried in bewilderment at her perceived failure at losing the job she had sought for years, as her uncomfortable co-workers and a nation looked on.… Even people who didn’t particularly like Curry loathed the way she was dispatched.”

Following her ascension to the co-host seat, reports surfaced that Guthrie felt the pressure intensely and had begun to suffer migraines as a result. While declining to confirm or deny those stories, Bell acknowledged that Guthrie’s susceptibility to pressure and pain were “an inspiration” to the Today producers.

“I don’t want to give away the surprise,” Bell said, “but we have something very special planned, something painful and public that you’ll never forget, and that you’d never in a million years see on ABC or CBS.

“Over the past 60 years, our viewers have come to know what they can expect from Today and our on-air ‘family,’” Bell continued. “They know they can always count on us to do things the Today way.”

Several minutes after concluding the conference call, Bell phoned reporters again. “I just want to make clear that this was totally not Matt’s idea, okay?”

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