Is the 'Today' Show In Trouble?
In this photo released by NBC, "Today" show co-hosts Ann Curry and Matt Lauer appear on the "Today" show, Thursday, June 9, 2011, in New York. Thursday was Ann's first day replacing Meredith Vieira as co-anchor of the show. (AP Photo/NBC, Peter Kramer)
Tomorrow isn't looking so bright for "Today."
A sweeping, eight-page article in New York Magazine traces the decline of NBC's former king of morning talk shows. The once-triumphant "Today" now regularly places second to ABC's "Good Morning America." Ever since Katie Couric and Matt Lauer ruled the dawn hours, the show has been trying to find that magical combination of hosts again. But the elevation and subsequent ouster of longtime "Today" presence Ann Curry in 2012 led to the show's toppling from its No. 1 perch.
Many blamed Lauer, but as the article writer Joe Hagan notes, "If Lauer is guilty in the hosticide of Ann Curry (he's certainly not innocent), he's far from the only guilty party."
It's a long, absorbing read -- well worth the time -- and here are our top nine takeaways. Some left us surprised, others shaking our heads:
1. After Meredith Vieira left, Lauer attempted to bring back Couric.
He proposed she return in a few years, and then the pair would create a daytime talk show together. But NBC didn't want to pony up so much money.
2. Curry was a pro, but also "intensely fragile."
A newswoman with years of experience, Curry still didn't take kindly to teasing about her outfits by Couric years ago. And when Lauer "punked" her with a fake photo shoot, a miffed Curry reportedly holed up in her dressing room.
3. When hosting together, Curry was more popular with viewers than Lauer.
Internal research showed that when the two hosts were on-screen together, Lauer came across as "aloof, a little bit holier-than-thou, and pompous," a source told New York. "He was becoming Bryant Gumbel."
4. The hosts weren't the only problem; the bosses were feuding, too.
Then-executive producer Jim Bell saw the issues between Curry and Lauer right away, and he sought out new NBCUniversal President Steve Burke to discuss their options. But Bell's boss, Steve Capus, felt cut out, and their subsequent power plays only produced more confusion.
5. Lauer almost left for ABC.
When rumors circulated that NBC was considering replacing Lauer with Ryan Seacrest, the host reached out to Couric and Jeff Zucker (the duo's former producer, then CEO of NBC, then Couric's producer again). They hatched a plan to create that daytime show they'd always talked about. But at the last minute, Lauer backed out.
[Related: Who's Replacing Alex Trebek on 'Jeopardy!'?]
6. After Curry left, Lauer's Q score dropped dramatically.
After Curry's tearful onscreen departure from "Today" -- described by writer Hagan as "the morning-show equivalent of Curry 'strapping on C4' explosives" -- Lauer's popularity began to sink. His Q score rating -- a measurement of the familiarity and appeal of a brand, company, celebrity, or television show -- went from 19 to 9.
7. Al Roker's jokes did not help … at all.
When the jovial weatherman interviewed Olympic rowers last summer, they said they throw team members into the water after a victory. Roker's response was that the show's tradition was to "throw one of us under the bus! But that's another story." He later said it wasn't meant to be about Curry, but the video went viral nonetheless.
8. NBC blocked Curry from tweeting to Robin Roberts.
When the "Good Morning America" host left that show to receive treatment for her illness, MDS or myelodysplastic syndrome, Curry wanted to tweet a note of well wishes. NBC said no.