Two-time Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir announced on NBC‘s Today this morning that he is retiring from competition and joining the network’s coverage team for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He’ll be joined by 1998 Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski, and 2006 ice dance silver medalist Tanith Belbin, the network announced. Weir, the two-time Olympian and three-time U.S. champion, and Lipinski, the youngest individual gold medalist in the history of the Olympic Winter Games when she won in Nagano in 1998 at age 15, will serve as analysts for NBC Olympics’ multi-platform figure skating coverage. Belbin, a silver medalist in ice dancing at the Torino Olympics, will serve as a reporter for NBC Olympics’ Sports Desk and will present features for The Olympic Zone, NBC Olympics’ 30-minute daily show for NBC affiliates covering all aspects of the Games. Weir and Lipinski debut on NBC this Sunday at 4 PM ET alongside Terry Gannon on the network’s telecast of the 2013 Skate Canada International, featuring performances from the men’s and ladies’ free skate competitions.
NBC News says the former heavyweight champ-turned-Broadway star will sit down with Matt Lauer in Las Vegas for an interview airing tomorrow morning on Today. Mike Tyson surprised the heck out of the press last week when they showed up for what they thought was a news conference about his return to boxing as a promoter, and instead listened as he told them, “I’m a motherfucker” who has been lying for years about being sober. Sure to come up will be this statement at last Friday’s news conference cum confessional: “I’m a bad guy sometimes. I did a lot of bad things, and I want to be forgiven. … I wanna change my life, I wanna live a different life now. I wanna live my sober life. I don’t wanna die. I’m on the verge of dying because I’m a vicious alcoholic. Wow. God, this is some interesting stuff.”
UPDATE, 10:06 AM: One day after Today‘s Paula Deen “get”, ABC’s Good Morning America was back on top, nearly 600,000 viewers ahead of Today and 31% in front in the adults 25-54 demo, which is the currency of news programming ad sales.
PREVIOUSLY, THURSDAY AM: NBC News boasted this morning that its Paula Deen interview on Today beat ABC’s genre-leading Good Morning America on Wednesday morning. It’s the first time Today has outstripped GMA since the Friday of Hurricane Sandy week, in November. According to early calculations, Today averaged 4.84 million viewers and GMA 4.67 million. To put this in perspective: One day earlier, GMA had clocked nearly 800,000 more viewers than Today, using the same early measurement system.
Paula Deen’s comments on Today this morning about her experience at the wrong end of a gun during a 1987 bank robbery dovetail with the statement made by the guy at the other end of the gun, according to the latest TV program to jump on the story today. “I was surprised when I walked in and saw the lady that was the teller at the window, because I knew her from the downtown bank where I normally bank,” the alleged robber said in his account of the incident, according to the police report obtained by CBS-distributed Inside Edition. “I thought she would recognize me because there were some holes in the stocking covering my face. I can’t remember her name, but I know who she is,” Inside Edition reported the man said, citing the police report. Deen told Matt Lauer this morning on Today that she had used “the N-word” just once, and in reference to this incident, during which she said the man’s hand was shaking, which caused her to fear he had recognized her. Deen is under the gun now because of a statement she made, during a deposition for a harassment suit that’s been filed against her, that she has used the racial slur in the past. Food Network announced it was dropping her after that deposition was leaked, and Walmart and Caesars Entertainment severed ties with the TV celebrity cook after her Today interview.
Celebrities on trial in the court of public opinion might want to think twice before using Today to get out their message. Almost immediately after Matt Lauer’s interview with Paula Deen on the program this morning, the show began critiquing it — and gave Deen mostly failing grades. “Paula Deen’s TODAY apology ‘failed’ and was ‘bizarre,’ experts say”, ran the Today.com headline. “Opinions are split over how effective her 13-minute mea culpa really was,” the show’s website’s critique said. The critique included reviews by public relations experts, one of whom noted, “(Former President Richard Nixon) never apologized by saying he was guilty or wrong about Watergate; she was the same way.”
“Toward the end it was kind of bizarre,” weighed in another. Insisting she’d only used the N-word once was a big strategic mistake, they all agreed. If anyone ever caught her on a cell phone making a racial slur “she’s done,” said one PR expert. The show ticked off the “other low points” in Deen’s appearance. Among them, she was accused of giving rehearsed responses and gestures, and of using “pidgin colloquialism” like “I is what I is.”
Paula Deen On ‘Today’ Tearfully Begs Sponsors Not To Dump Her: “I Would Not Have Fired Me” And “I Am Not A Racist”
BREAKING… UPDATED (with video): TV’s Southern cooking queen Paula Deen confessed she was “heartbroken” when she sat down with Matt Lauer on Today this morning. This was her much delayed but much ballyhooed live interview to salvage her business empire in the wake of her admission she had used “the N-word” in her 66 years and The Food Network’s controversial decision not to renew her contract. “I’m here because I want people to know who I am,” Deen said, choking up. Lauer responded, “Millions of dollars are at stake for today’s interview. Are you here to say what you just said, or to stop the financial bleeding?” Deen replied, “I’m here because I want people to know who I am,” Deen choked up. “People I have never heard of are all of a sudden experts in who I am. And what hurts most is that their words are being given weight.”
I think Deen did very well on the show and cried at all the right moments. To build drama, the Today cameramen zoomed in on her anguished face throughout the segment, especially at the end when she really got going with the tears. For his part, Lauer is also trying to save his career with big ‘gets’ like Deen, and he followed a stern line of questioning sure to please those calling for Paula to be punished. But her supporters will not be happy with the way he treated her. He didn’t hug her or ooze sympathy; instead he sat back in his chair looking like judge and jury. By way of explanation, he said several times he wanted to keep the dialogue with her confined to business and not make it too personal.
“You’re the head of a brand,” Lauer noted, “Given the same circumstances, would you have fired yourself?” Deen responded, “Would I have fired me? Knowing me? No.” When asked by Lauer whether she was a racist, Deen replied simply, “No.” Then she added, “I believe that … every one of God’s creatures was created equal. I believe that everyone should be treated equal. That’s the way I was raised and that’s the way I live my life.”
Related: Paula Deen Inc At Stake On ‘Today’
David Friedman has joined ABC’s morning infotainment program Good Morning America as special GMA Creative Executive, working full-time for several months to help the show ramp up in the fall, GMA senior exec producer Tom Cibrowski announced today. GMA, of course, is now the genre leader in the daypart, besting NBC News’ once dominant Today. Friedman used to be exec producer of CBS’ The Early Show, and started his career at Today. But, these days, he’s maybe best known for the seven years during which he created, launched and exec produced Carson Daly’s late-night show. Most recently, he’s been one of the industry’s go-to guys for live special event programming, including The Biggest Loser finale on NBC. Here’s Cibrowski’s announcement to staff:
An average of 13 million people watched Nick Wallenda slowly walk a wire across the Colorado River Gorge while conducting a running dialogue with God and Jesus last night on Discovery Channel. “Oh, I praise you, Jesus. Lord, help this cable to calm down — command it,” the 34-year-old aerialist suggested a few yards into his quarter-mile “Skywire” stunt. Wallenda was not wearing a harness but had a microphone and two cameras — including one that looked down on the dry Little Colorado River bed and one that was focused dead ahead. Discovery telecast the ratings grab with a 10-second delay in the U.S. and a couple hundred other countries. The two-hour event delivered 8.5 million total viewers — jumping to 13 million during the actual walk.
Note to Wallenda: you might want to re-think the whole “no harness” thing, because the extra dange did not goose your ratings. They were on par with the numbers you clocked for your last made-for-TV high-wire act, crossing Niagara Falls for ABC. That stunt, which ABC aired last June, averaged 10.1 million viewers, peaking at 13.1 million viewers during the walk.
Anyway, Discovery noted this morning Sunday’s stunt shattered records across numerous platforms including social media, where Wallenda generated 1.3 million tweets becoming the #1 most social show across broadcast and cable in the U.S.
For comparison sake: during the 9:30-10 half hour, in which Wallenda was actually walking the wire and clocking 13 million viewers, ABC’s Whodunnit? logged 3.8 million people, CBS’s The Good Wife rerun snared 3.3 mil, NBC’s Crossing Lines bagged 4.2 mil and Fox’s American Dad repeat popped 3.2 mil.