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TV Column
Posted at 09:58 AM ET, 04/12/2011

Katie Couric makes the morning talk show rounds


CBS news anchor Katie Couric. (Danny Moloshok - REUTERS)
“I think I love to be my authentic self. And I think it served me well through the years,” Couric told Erica Hill on CBS’s morning infotainment program “The Early Show” on Tuesday.

“CBS Evening News” anchor Katie Couric is in heavy rotation on morning infotainment TV for the next couple of days — as a bouquet of “Katie Couric’s Bright Future trial balloons” bobs merrily in the media.

Couric is ostensibly doing a round of interviews to plug her compilation book of essays from famous people, “The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives.” But the questions everyone wants to hear her answer are all about her thoughts on exiting the network’s evening news franchise after only a five-year stint, her plans for a syndicated talk show, whether those plans include her former “Today” co-host Matt Lauer, and what she thinks of CBS News chief Jeff Fager’s plans to replace her with “60 Minutes” vet­eran Scott Pelley.

Lauer is also said to be mulling an exit from his show, but not until the end of his contract late next year.

“You’ve got a lot of changes coming in your life, as we know, your contract is up at CBS,” said Hill, taking a stab at a segue into the topic that has been the subject of obsessive media speculation.

“But as you go down this road, figuring out what the next step is for you — wherever it may be — is there anything in this book that really stood out to you as advice to help you make that decision?” Hill added sweetly.

“I think, sort of just listening to your inner self,” Couric replied. “I think a lot of people talk about that. And also, [Olympic ice skater] Michelle Kwan talked about learning to get up when you fall.”

“I don’t feel like I’ve fallen,” Couric added quickly. “But the importance of being persistent and continuing on a path and being true to what really makes you happy, finding your passion.”

“But I love my job,” she circled back, remembering she was on a CBS show. “And I really found a lot of satisfaction doing the ‘Evening News,’ and I’m really proud of the team and all we’ve accomplished.”

“So I don’t want to say that I’m not proud of this chapter in my life either, speaking of books,” she concluded smoothly.

“One of the things people love about you is you’re a fantastic journalist but you are such an approachable, real person,” Hill gushed, before ending the segment.

No real questions answered here.

Couric is ranked No. 1 on this month’s Newspeople Most Expected to Leave Their Jobs list — a list that includes not only Lauer, but also “Today” matron and Lauer co-host Meredith Vieira.

Anyway, Tuesday morning, in addition to her “Early Show” appearance, Couric visited ABC’s “The View” to promote the book and coyly answer all career questions.

“Well, I am more than a little familiar with the microscope that Katie Couric has been under for the past five years, as anchor of the “CBS Evening News,” Babs Walters said on “The View” this morning.

Oh, you didn’t know all Babs interviews on “The View” are about Babs? Yes, SHE, not Katie, was the first woman to host a broadcast evening newscast, only Babs co-hosted, with Harry Reasoner, in the late 70’s.

Babs, who’s sitting next to “The View” referee Whoopi Goldberg, mentions the title of Katie’s new book, emphasizing the “Extraordinary Lives” bit, adding proudly, “Whoopi’s in it – I’m in it.”

Really, there’s no one like Babs.

“Did you mind when I used to say I could relate to you, that you were a younger version of me?” Babs coos, as Katie is getting settled on the sofa.

Babs mentions Pelley, who has been the CBS evening news heir apparent for some time, and wonders will Katie finally confirm she’s leaving.

“No,” Katie responds, adding, “first of all I don’t think it’s place to do that.”

“I respect you wanting to answer this question. I respect you wanting to make news on ‘The View’,” Katie says firmly, and she does promise that when she makes a decision, “I’ll come back.”

Eventually, they remember she’s here to plug the book, proceeds of which are going to a scholarship fund. Babs wants to read her own submission. So she does. It ends with some gag about not sleeping with the boss.

“Well, Chelsea Handler gave the same advice,” Katie snarks. Handler, of course, famously was hooked up with the head of Comcast’s networks (this was in the pre-NBC Universal purchase era ), which included E! at which Handler has her late-night show.

We think Katie won that round.

But, both her “Early Show” chat, and even her visit to kiss the ring on Walters’s show, are mere wind-ups for The Big Event on Wednesday. That’s when Couric is scheduled to appear on “Today.”

A “Today” rep told the TV Column on Monday that it had not been decided whether Lauer or Vieira will interview Couric.

Hooking Couric up with Lauer on the show presents its own particular set of problems, given that the latest trial balloon added to the bouquet this week has Couric’s camp and Lauer’s chatting about the possibility of reuniting for this new talk show.

We know we’d love to hear them discuss how Couric hopes to launch a talk show in the fall that would be co-hosted by Lauer, whose contract won’t be up for those many months.

And, of course, if Vieira exits “Today” later this year, as speculated, Lauer suddenly is the prettiest dress in that shop, and NBC News won’t give him up without a stiff-ish fight.

At any rate, the “Today” rep did confirm that both Lauer and Vieira will be working on the show “Wednesday,” which means three in all — we think it’s the highest concentration of on-air talent with one foot out the door to appear on the same program in TV history.

By  |  09:58 AM ET, 04/12/2011

 
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