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Posted at 06:00 PM ET, 06/08/2011

Meredith Vieira says goodbye to ‘Today’

Singer Carole King performs for "Today" show co-hosts Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Al Roker, Ann Curry, and Natalie Morales. (Peter Kramer - PETER KRAMER/NBC UNIVERSAL, INC.)
Meredith Vieira gamely played Ring Around the Rosie with Carole King at a piano, then let herself be dragged around Rockefeller Plaza in a “Glee”-ish musical tribute, as she said goodbye to NBC’s “Today Show” Wednesday.

“Welcome to ‘Today’ on a very bittersweet Wednesday morning,” co-host Matt Lauer said at the very top of the show.

“Looks lile I’m leaving,” Meredith joked.

“Mixed emotions?” Matt asked. This, pookies, illustrates why you must never ever take a bet as to whether the words “bittersweet” and “mixed emotions” will be used in the first three minutes of someone’s final episode on a talk show of any kind. Because “bittersweet” and “mixed emotions” are to series finales what “Don’t ever change” is to high school yearbook inscriptions.

“We’re going to pay tribute to Meredith throughout the morning and have a number of surprises as well,” Matt warned at the top of Wednesday’s broadcast.

"Today" show co-hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira get emotional on Meredith's last day. (Peter Kramer - NBC UNIVERSAL, INC.)
True to his word, Carole King was trotted out to sing “You’ve got a Friend” because, Matt said, Meredith sang it like 30 times the day she graduated high school. Meredith, Matt and “Today” show gang sat on the “Today Show” sofa while King crooned at the baby grand.

Only it’s a slow-moving, long-ish tune, so after a few bars Matt decided to spontaneously lead Meredith over to the piano, with Ann Curry, the show’s newsreader who is replacing Meredith, Al Roker et al not about to be left behind. Except they had their backs to the camera, so they swung around behind King, then swung around some more, then some more.

Live TV is really hard.

Later, Meredith took off her bone-colored heels in favor of sensible black shoes so she could be “surprised” with a starring role in a live-music-video-cum-flash mob to the enough-already Journey anthem, “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Meredith, huffed, puffed and jogged from the studio, through the control room, past the offices, up some stairs, and outside to Rockefeller Plaza where “Today” cast and crew flash mobbed her, kissing Abe Vigoda and being guitar-lick-mimed by Jimmy Fallon along the way.Then it was time for the “Today” gang to remark how un-Katie-Couric-like Meredith had been lo these past five years.

“I have never, in my entire career, worked with anybody who has been more about the program and the people they worked with than themselves, than you,” gushed Al Roker, who had earlier called Vieira’s “Today” tenure “five of the greatest years of our lives.”
Everyone says goodbye to Meredith. (Peter Kramer - PETER KRAMER/NBC UNIVERSAL, INC.)

“I have marveled over the fact someone with talent as large as yours, how small your ego is,” added Matt. “You’ve taught us all how to be great teammates and that’s the gift I will take away from you. So thank you so much.”

Vieira joined the morning infotainment show in ’06, stepping in for Couric, who left in order to replace Dan Rather as anchor of CBS’s evening newscast. Couric recently left that gig and has announced she’s going to do a syndicated talk show for Disney which will air on ABC’s larger stations – just like Oprah did.

“I want to speak for just a second on behalf of all the viewers who want to thank you, if they could be here today, for getting up at 2 a.m. every morning to ask the hard questions, five days a week, on weekdays, every morning, to make us laugh and to remind us, all the way till now, to live our values,” added Ann, who spent the entire two hours leaning forward to suggest earnestness.

“Our door is always open, we are always your family,” Ann added.

“I don’t want to go now. I want to stay,” Meredith responded to all the affection. Grievously, the camera was not on Ann at that moment.

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By  |  06:00 PM ET, 06/08/2011

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