NBC’s Today team this morning celebrated making the opening monologue in Jimmy Fallon’s celebrity-strewn Tonight Show debut last night. “The screaming actually came from their sled,” Jimmy Fallon had joked as he showed a clip of spandex-ed Al Roker and Matt Lauer making their return to …
UPDATE: NBC Olympics EP Jim Bell Defends Bode Miller Interview About Dead Brother That Brought Him To Tears (Video)
UPDATE: 10:45 AM: NBC Olympics executive producer Jim Bell said this morning it would have been “irresponsible” of NBC had the network not asked U.S. Olympic skier Bode Miller questions about his dead brother, and U.S. skeleton racer Noelle Pikus-Pace questions about a miscarriage she suffered a few years ago, during its coverage of the two athletes’ respective medal wins. Bell insisted he’d do the same if covering any other sport, but that it’s especially important with “Olympics particularly, because people don’t know these athletes…It’s a bigger responsibility to share” this personal information, he insisted, in order “to get viewers to connect with those athletes…and their sports.”
Bell said he understood the reaction to particularly the Miller interview, and the public’s tendency to “take to Twitter to vent a little about it.” In the interview, conducted after Bode’s bronze medal Super-G run on Sunday and run at length during NBC’s primetime coverage last night, Olympics reporter Christin Cooper asked him multiple questions about his brother, as Bode choked up, and only ended when Bode doubled over weeping, then walked away. Bode’s brother died in April of an apparent seizure that may have been connected to a motorcycle accident.
In a phone call with press this morning, Bell maintained that, the “storyline about Bode” had been set up on the network’s Olympics broadcast the night before the interview, and he “felt it was important to finish it up.” He noted Miller himself took to Twitter to defend Cooper and that Bode had come on NBC’s Today this morning to tell viewers he did not blame her for the questions. “He said he thought it was fine and he stood by her,” Bell said, adding that should “take some of the temperature down on” the kerfuffle over that interview and the interview Meredith Vieira did with Pikus-Pace in which she asked the athlete about a miscarriage she suffered a few years ago. Bell, who was on the phoner to talk about Bob Costas’ return to the air tonight — a subject that quickly got overshadowed by questions about the Miller and Pikus-Pace interviews — said “the way it played out was fine.”
In a statement about the Bode interview issued after Bode appeared on Today show, NBC said: “Our intent was to convey the emotion that Bode Miller was feeling after winning his bronze medal. We understand how some viewers thought the line of questioning went too far, but it was our judgment that his answers were a necessary part of the story. We’re gratified that Bode has been publicly supportive of Christin Cooper and the overall interview.”
PREVIOUS, 6:10 AM: NBC This morning asked Bode Miller, in so many words, to come to the defense of its Olympics reporter Christin Cooper, who has been under fire since she caused Olympic skier to double over and weep, with repeated questions about his brother’s death during an interview. (Watch after the jump).
Cooper has taken a lot of heat for going way too far in that interview she did with Miller after he won a bronze medal in the men’s Super-G ski race Sunday. Cooper became a Twitter trending topic – and not in a good way — almost immediately after it aired in full during NBC’s primetime coverage of the interview. “We’re not done until you sob, Bode!” said one tweeter, pretending to be an NBC Sports exec.
UPDATE, 6:30 PM: “At an Olympics, there is no way to know what will happen at the moment everything matters most — no guarantee you’ll turn all that preparation into perfection,” Meredith Vieira said tonight at the International Broadcast Center in Sochi as she kicked off NBC’s primetime broadcast of Olympics competition held earlier in the day. The comment was particularly appropriate under the circumstances: Vieira, who’d been brought to Sochi to co-host the Opening Ceremony with Matt Lauer and had been doing segments for Today on U.S. athletes to watch at the Games since, was tapped to replace Bob Costas as the network’s primetime Games anchor, taking over for Lauer, who’d pulled double duty for three days. Costas still is battling an infection in both eyes that makes studio lighting his enemy.
Vieira is on duty for at least one night – possibly two, according to NBC’s Games EP Jim Bell, who called her the best choice for the gig among a considerable stable of talent at Sochi because her schedule was most flexible. For a TV veteran whose new syndicated daytime talk show is set to launch in the fall, the Sochi exposure is a gift. Before Costas, former Today anchor Bryant Gumbel served as primetime host of NBC’s Olympic coverage and was preceded by Curt Gowdy and Bill Henry, making Vieira the first woman to do the job. Hannah Storm, Mary Carillo, Gayle Gardner and Jane Pauley have previously hosted NBC’s daytime and late-night Olympic coverage.
“It’s so funny, I woke up this morning and I was feeling fine, and now my eyes are killing me,” Vieira joshed on Today this morning when her new assignment was announced. “I watched you guys [Lauer and Al Roker] attempt the luge. I think I’m going blind.”
Bob Costas, NBC‘s primetime and late-night Olympics anchor, is out a second day — felled by swollen, weepy eyes. “I don’t know if I’m the first person to break it to you, but you’re coming out of the bullpen again tonight, Matt,” Costas phoned in to Matt Lauer this morning during the What’s Trending portion of Today show in Sochi. Costas and his pink-ish, teary eyes had been trending for a while — Costas having shown up last Thursday to anchor early Games coverage sporting a badly swollen left eye, glasses, and an apology to viewers. Tuesday was a big/bad day for NBC, with both Costas and Shaun White suffering the end of their streaks. White, who NBC had hoped would be its Big Story of the Sochi Games, lost out on his bid for a third consecutive gold in the halfpipe, going home with no medals from Sochi; Costas ended his uninterrupted run as anchor of NBC’s Olympics broadcasts since the late ’80s.
Lauer made his debut as fill-in anchor last night, telling viewers Costas’ eyes were so infected he looked like the loser in a prize fight. “How are you doing? So many people are rooting for you and worrying about you a little bit,” Savannah Guthrie asked Costas this morning — after noting Lauer’s “great reviews” for replacing him.
UPDATE: Matt Lauer Shuns Bob Costas’ Vodka-Shot Therapy As He Fills In On NBC’s Primetime Olympics Coverage
UPDATE, 5:50 PM PT: “We’re back now with a good opportunity to welcome in our Mary Carillo, and she’s about to bring us our nightly dose of Russian culture and no vodka tonight – please. You saw what happened last night,” Matt Lauer joked tonight as he fills in for Bob Costas on NBC‘s primetime Olympics coverage. He’s referring to the previous night’s primetime coverage when Costas abandoned NBC doctors’ treatment for his ever-worsening eye infections, and went instead with vodka, telling Carillo during one of her Russian-culture segments as he downed what was billed as a good-ish dose of the Russian booze: “My eyes can’t get any redder.” Polishing off his drink, he predicted, “Tomorrow morning I’ll be lying on a curb in Minsk.”
PREVIOUS, 4:30 PM PT: “I’m Matt Lauer, in for Bob Costas tonight. If you’ve been following along the last several days you know Bob’s been battling — and that’s an understatement — an eye infection that’s traveled a little bit,” Lauer said at the top of tonight’s NBC primetime coverage of Tuesday competition. ” I saw him in the hotel this morning — he looked a little like the loser in a prize fight.”
Walking up to the primetime coverage, NBC’s evening newscaster Brian Williams told viewers, “Bob Costas took himself out of the lineup for tonight as he deals with that eye infection,” ending a “Ripkin-like iron man streak of 157 straight primetime Olympics broadcasts that goes back to Barcelona in ’92.”
UPDATE, 8:30 AM: NBC has issued a news release about Bob Costas’ decision to end his streak of 157 nights of Olympics coverage. The network reiterated what Costas announced this morning on Today: that Matt Lauer will host NBC’s Olympic primetime and late-night shows tonight in place of Costas, who has an eye infection. In the news release, Costas says he bowed out tonight because, “as a practical matter, I simply couldn’t do my job because my eyes had become so blurry, watery and sensitive to light.” He added: “I’m hopeful the symptoms will improve in the next couple of days and I can return to the broadcast. Also, the last thing I want is to go through the rest of my life owing Matt Lauer a bunch of favors.”
Tonight marks the first time since CBS presented the Nagano Olympic Winter Games in 1998 that someone other than Costas will host an Olympics primetime show. It’s also the first time since 1988 that someone other than Costas will host the Olympic primetime show on NBC — a remarkable 157 straight nights. “I’m happy to keep his chair warm. Although I might Purell it before I sit in it!” Lauer said in the announcement, which noted Costas is listed as ‘day to day’ on the NBC injury report.
Costas’ full statement:
NBC announced this morning Matt Lauer will host Going For Gold — and yet, it’s not a Sochi Olympics walk-up. It’s a celebrity-studded walk-up to the network’s broadcast of the Golden Globe Awards, is an NBC News production, and will air Friday at 8 PM. If it’s Sochi Olympics walk-up you’re looking for, NBC will broadcast Shaun White: Russia Calling on January 25 — an hour-long program examining how the two-time gold medal winner balances work and play while prepping for the Games. It is not produced by NBC News, instead by Shaun White Enterprises, with Shaun White exec producing, and promises, modestly, to be “a rare inside look into the challenges and sacrifices that are made in order to be the best in the world.”
From NBC’s Going For Gold announcement:
NBC began its Today show Olympics walk-up this morning with a strategically timed piece in The New York Times about a Comcast-wide ad blitz for a new show tagline “Rise to Shine”. It’s part of a big push to get Today back on top in the morning infotainment show ratings. In the article, NBC noted that Today, which lost its ratings crown to ABC’s Good Morning America some time ago, has been chipping away at GMA’s lead, even beating its rival by 18,000 in the news demo the week of December 16 (aka The Week GMA Sent Robin Roberts to the Vatican). The head of NBC News research spoke passionately about Matt Lauer‘s importance to the show’s ratings resuscitation, and Matt himself discussed taking selfies when you think you’re looking good, not when you’re looking bad.
GMA responded this morning with a news release announcing that it won all four quarters of 2013, including its largest fourth-quarter total-viewer lead over Today in more than 22 years, and its biggest demo lead over Today in 19 years (371,000 viewers) during the final full week of the calendar year.
Oh, and Robin Roberts come out on GMA this morning — taking some of the wind out of Today’s carefully orchestrated “Rise to Shine”.
“We should mention, we’re going to do this in a tasteful way — this is not The Learning Channel,” Savannah Guthrie said at the top of the hour on the Today show this morning, when Matt Lauer and Al Roker got prostate exams live, on the air, on ratings-hungry Today. Turns out, a tasteful, live, on-air prostate exam involves watching Lauer open a door, enter another room, close the door, after which the Ladies of Today vamp for 34 seconds until Matt emerges from behind the door and his doctor pronounces his prostate small, smooth, and nodule-free. It’s not as dull as, say, CNN’s Crossfire, but it doesn’t hold a candle to Katie Couric’s Celebrity Colonoscopy, about 13 years ago, on Today.
That live on-air colonoscopy changed how many Americans viewed the procedure. But back then, we watched Katie prep the night before, we listened to her talk about the death of her husband from colon cancer; Katie was sedated and therefore charmingly semi-loopy in her hospital gown at the hospital for the procedure. We watched in horror/fascination, as the little camera snaked its way up Katie’s intestine with Katie and her doctor proving commentary. It was gripping stuff. Matt and Al walking behind a door lacks drama. (continued)
More than 13 years ago, morning infotainment ratings leader Today aired Katie Couric’s Celebrity Colonoscopy and changed how many Americans viewed that screening. Tomorrow, Matt Lauer and Al Roker will get prostate exams live, on the air, on the now-ratings-hungry morning show. When Today made a star of Couric’s colon in March 2000, nearly 6.7 million viewers tuned in to watch that day. To put that in perspective, it’s about how many viewers tuned in to Today for updates the morning after President Obama successfully pulled off the taking down of Osama bin Laden. Hoping to re-create the ratings magic, Lauer and Roker will get their prostates checked out, live, by a doctor and discuss the importance of prostate screening for men over 40.
When she left the show in June 2006, Couric said on her final broadcast that undergoing the first televised colonoscopy was her proudest accomplishment.
UPDATE: NBC To Trot Out Second Pilot For ‘Dateline’ Skydiver Collision Special After ‘GMA’ Beats ‘Today’ Skydivers Edition
UPDATE, 2:35 PM: NBC will air its Dateline special, using the helmet-cam video of the skydivers who survived that mid-air collision 12,000 feet above Wisconsin last weekend, this Friday at 8 PM on a Dateline special called Miracle On The Sunset Dive. Sure enough, NBC News was saving that second plot — the one whose plane caught fire and broke into pieces, and who was not seen on Tuesday’s Today show — for the Dateline special. “For the first time, hear from the pilot whose plane lost both of its wings and plummeted to the ground,” NBC News emoted in this afternoon’s scheduling announcement.
PREVIOUS, 10:17 AM: Word that NBC News had paid “in excess” of $100,000 for exclusive rights to helmet-cam video of skydivers who’d miraculously survived a recent mid-air collision in Wisconsin had some media critics harrumphing mightily, accusing NBC News of “checkbook journalism” albeit on a Hollywood-cappuccino-money level — but that’s not the point. In fairness, the news did not offend some media-watchers’ moral sense — no doubt because they don’t have one, you’re thinking.
NBC no doubt hopes Miley Cyrus‘ Today show appearance this morning cops better ratings than did her Saturday Night Live hosting/performing gig over the weekend. Undaunted by NCAA football’s best effort to nuke her SNL numbers with a nearly half-hour delay, trouper Cyrus packed up her Strategic Hot Mess Tour and sashayed on over to Today to make some news, telling Matt Lauer he’s too old to be sexy, or to understand her VMA performance.
Matt needs the ratings — all good.
Miley was the only one who mentioned the half-hour football delay — deadline in late-night — that no doubt kept her Twerking Michele Bachmann performance from becoming all the talk on the Sunday Beltway shows the next morning. That football overrun kept Miley from setting any SNL ratings records on the heels of her gone-viral VMA twerkformance. That said, SNL’s delayed-viewing stats will no doubt be even higher than usual. Matt instead, after praising her “really great showing on Saturday Night Live,” wondered if the seasoned pro — who has been slapped in front of TV cameras since around the turn of the century, starred in her own comedy series from ’06-’11, upstaged Justin Timberlake at the VMAs, and had hosted SNL before — was nervous on the late-night stalwart over the weekend. Miley politely explained that she was not. Then Matt said he would never be able to look at another foam finger or wrecking ball the same way again and wondered if it has been harder than she’d expected to navigate the transition from kid star to adult star, and if she was surprised by the attention she’s been getting of late. (Watch Miley talk to Matt after the jump.)
The lives of producers tasked with finding fluffy upbeat videos to sprinkle into TV newscasts has become a living hell since Jimmy Kimmel punked a whole industry with his Twerk Fail YouTube prank. That’s particularly true for those working under the watchful eye of Matt “Disappointed By The Laziness Of The Media” Lauer at the Today show. This morning, Today dove into the ratings catnip that is Jason Mortensen – star of a funny YouTube video that has nearly as many views as had Kimmel’s funny Twerk Fail before Kimmel revealed it was a prank – 6 million and growing in just one week. In the video, Mortensen is seen allegedly coming out from under anesthesia after surgery, being fed crackers by some very pretty woman who, he discovers, is his wife of several years, which causes him to exclaim, “I hit the jackpot!” and note she has perfect teeth. He withholds judgment on her twerkside, requesting she turn around, but she politely declines — because, of course, she’s documenting their whole renewed acquaintance to post on YouTube, “so he can see how he acts, and so I can show people,” she explained sweetly to the Today on-air panel of non-lazy journalists.