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TV Column
Posted at 10:44 AM ET, 05/09/2011

Meredith Vieira leaving ‘Today’; Ann Curry named as replacement [Updated]


Vieira is leaving NBC's "Today" show next month, and Ann Curry will replace her as host. (Evan Agostini - AP)

With the dust settled on the whole Katie Couric/Scott Pelley “CBS Evening News” fracas, NBC News decided the coast was clear to announce “Today” show’s Meredith Vieira is leaving and Ann Curry will, at long last, get to wear the “Today” co-host tiara.

(ABC News wasn’t so lucky. Monday morning, while Meredith and Ann were arguing over who’s day it was – Meredith insisting it was Ann’s big day, Ann insisting the day should be all about Meredith – ABC News tried to make noise for the return of “The Insider’s” Lara Spencer to “Good Morning America” with a pricey montage in which Spencer saunters through the sets of “Desperate Housewives,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” and “The View,” chatting up those shows stars to see if someone can tell her where is the “GMA” set in Times Square. Sadly, Spencer, got totally upstaged by Meredith and Ann, even though the “Today” show news had been speculated for weeks.)

“It’s a difficult day for me...after months of personal reflection and private conversations through my family and my friends, I’ve decided to leave ‘Today’ in June,” Vieira said on Monday’s “Today” show, explaining she wants to spend more time with her husband and kids, but is in talks about staying with NBC News in some capacity.

“Even as I say this, and I know it is the right thing, I’m really sad, because for the past — I like to say 10 years, but it’s only been five — this has been my second home,” Vieira continued, while sitting on the couch next to co-host Matt Lauer, along with “Today’s” Al Roker, Ann Curry, and Natalie Morales, who is taking Ann’s place as “Today” news reader.

(Not on the couch but also part of Monday’s news, MSNBC’s Savannah Guthrie has been named co-host of “Today’s” third hour, joining Roker and Morales in June.)

“Even as we are sad to say goodbye to Meredith, we are thrilled that Ann Curry will be taking a step from this cushion, leaping over here, and coming over to this cushion,” Lauer said, gesturing to Vieira’s spot.

“I feel like the high school computer nerd who was just asked to the prom by the quarterback of the football team,” Curry gushed, before adding, “But I have to say, I think this day is really Meredith’s.”

“It’s really Ann’s day,” Meredith said, getting in the finale word on that debate, during a news conference after the show.

Meredith insisted she’s not leaving because, as some reports said, her husband, who has MS, is in bad health, but because he is, right now, in good health. “I appreciate what that means…I want to be there with him and I want to have fun and appreciate our time together.” That report, she said, “diminished him and diminished me so I want to set the record straight on that.”

Matt got asked about reports he might be leaving “Today” as well, when his long-term contract expires on Dec. 31 of 2012, possibly to join soon-to-be-former CBS evening newscast anchor Katie Couric on a syndicated talk show. Katie announced on April 26 that she’s leaving the evening anchor gig, but has yet to announce where she’s going next.

Anyway, Matt’s answer was so riddled with qualifiers it will do nothing to stanch that rumor. Here are the highlights:

“I have a long-term deal with NBC. I love this job. I love this place. It’s not even worth talking about now…We spoke about the possibility, but I’ve spoken about lots of possibilities over the years…I just determined there wasn’t any need to continue the conversation for now. Katie’s timetable is more accelerated than mine…Yes, we talked about it but, at this time, it’s not even worth talking about.”

“For me, I use the word ‘bittersweet’,” Meredith replacement Curry said sadly, when she got her at-bat during the news conference.

“As I said this morning, we just love you,” Curry continued, presumably talking to Meredith – we were listening in on a conference call.

“You brought a graciousness to our broadcast, but left this tremendous body of work,” Curry continued. “I don’t like change in the morning –even this change.

“ I’m humbled to work with you in this capacity. And, you know I’m telling the truth,” Curry continued, now addressing Matt, and sounding more and more Eve Harrington-like by the minute.

“You are the best. To sit alongside you will be one of the greatest things in my life.”

“It’s not that great,” Matt replied very Addison DeWitt-ish-ly.

This could turn out to be the best coupling in “Today” show history.

“I’m stunned by the quality of the people we get to work with,” Curry continued, undeterred. “And I’m excited for you, Savannah, to get to join our family and to be here with us. I think you’re going to love this. I mean, buckle up, it’s a great ride.”

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

By  |  10:44 AM ET, 05/09/2011

 
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