Sit tight, Matt Lauer — Ryan Seacrest not taking over ‘Today’ seat yet

April 4, 2012

Ryan Seacrest has joined “the NBC family” and will participate in its prime-time coverage of the Summer Olympics in London while continuing to host “American Idol” but cutting back on his work for E!, the TV industry hotshot said Wednesday.

He will not replace Matt Lauer on “Today” — at this time.

Seacrest broke the news Wednesday on “Today.”

There had been much speculation Seacrest would replace Matt since the Wall Street Journal reported Seacrest had been spotted dining with NBC News suits and concluded that Seacrest must be replacing Matt because Matt was in contract talks and had hinted that he might leave, which is known in some circles as “negotiating in the press.”

“What kind of conversations have you had with NBC about joining ‘Today’ show?” Matt asked Seacrest on the show Wednesday.

“Oh, didn’t they tell you?” Seacrest responded smoothly. Nicely played.

Seacrest explained, for viewers — Matt already knows this stuff — that he’s worked for E! for years and that E! parent Comcast now owns NBC. “So the plan is for me to join the NBC family and continue to have a role on the E! network. The first assignment for me will be the prime-time team at the Olympics on NBC.”

“You didn’t answer the question,” Matt responded, trying to regain the alpha position in the interview. “I want names and dates.”

Seacrest said he’s had conversations about “Today” but added “mostly about filling in to do the weather.”

Anybody buying that?

“I see you doing this for as long as you want to,” Seacrest continued, effectively taking over the interview. “So, the question is, ‘How long will you be on the “Today” show?’ ”

“Funny you mention it,” simpered Matt, who has been in contract talks for what seems like an eternity.

“I think you’d be great at this job,” Matt, the guy who anchors a show that averages around 5 million viewers, patronizingly told Seacrest, the guy who plays ringmaster on a show that averages around 20 million.

Then, addressing America, Matt said: “Ryan and I are friendly — we have talked about this. There is no tension here.”

Anybody buying that?

So Seacrest, who, in his spare time, produces all those Kardashian reality series for E! and “Shahs of Sunset” for Comcast’s Bravo network, is not replacing Matt at this time.

Presumably, future “assignments” at NBC will groom him to do so at a later date. We know he can ask innocuous questions to celebrities on “Idol” and his very popular syndicated radio show, and he stays cool on camera even when boorish singing-competition-show judges are lobbing homophobic cracks his way or when comics throw urns of ashes on him at trophy-show red carpets. But Seacrest still needs to demonstrate he can interview heads of state.

Seacrest declined to announce a new contract to host “American Idol,” saying “we’re not quite there,” but told Matt, “I plan to stay there. . . . It’s a circus to run, and I enjoy it.”

Palin outdoes Couric
in viewership

Sarah Palin gave NBC’s lamestream “Today” an extra advantage against Katie Couric on Couric’s second day co-anchoring “Good Morning America,” early stats indicate.

“Today” outstripped “GMA” by 357,000 viewers Tuesday, compared with its 333,000-viewer advantage Monday, early ratings show.

Palin guest-hosted “Today” on Tuesday — or, as she put it, went rogue and infiltrated some turf. Couric, meanwhile, went bowling and infiltrated Madame Tussauds in Times Square on Tuesday’s show.

Female teens really took to Tuesday’s “Today” — that crowd was up 174 percent compared with Monday’s show, although it was unclear if they tuned in for Palin or for the promised “big NBC announcement” by Ryan Seacrest. Teen chicks really love Seacrest-hosted and Seacrest-produced shows, such as “American Idol,” all those Kardashian series on E!, etc.

Seacrest wound up bailing from Tuesday’s broadcast because, he tweeted, his doctor wanted him to stick around L.A. after elbow surgery, though it wasn’t as if he was going to fly the plane. And he showed up at the “Today” show’s Rockefeller Center digs the very next morning — maybe “elbow surgery” is the new Hollywood-speak for “not going to take second billing.”

Anyway, you know who really did not want to see Palin co-host “Today”?

Teen guys.

Monday’s broadcast had attracted only 45,000 of them — morning infotainment shows aren’t exactly teen-guy magnets to start with — but that number plunged to 30,000 Tuesday.

Discovery has
a new Destination

Discovery Communications may be standing firmly behind its flailing Oprah Winfrey Network as it tries to find its footing. But its Planet Green network? Not so much.

The Silver Spring-based media company announced Wednesday that Planet Green is dead. Or, more accurately, being recycled into a network that will be called Destination America.

The switchover from green to “red, white and blue” — yup, Discovery went there — happens on Memorial Day in the nearly 60 million homes that have access to the channel.

On Destination America, Discovery said, “barbeque isn’t just good cooking but an expression of our roots.” And “a job is never just a job — it’s our ingenuity made real.” And, “places like Alaska are more than untamed beauty — they’re a living symbol of our need to press ahead and walk where no one has tread before.”

Added Henry Schleiff, president and general manager of the new network:

“Americans may be divided by politics, but we are united by our love of country. As a network inclusive to all, Destination America will celebrate this connective spirit by curating the common ground among us: the pluck of the worn saddle, the promise of exploring new territory, and the diversity that has made this nation great.”

The new network’s slate of programs reads like a 1950s tourist brochure:

●“Fast Food Mania” celebrates the country’s “favorite fast food treats” and searches for “the most unusual fast food items and outposts.” The show will be hosted by Jon Hein, host of “The Fast Food Show” on Howard Stern’s Sirius/XM station.

●“Super-Duper Thrill Rides” explores the best and most extreme roller coasters in the United States — and the non-Destination America areas colloquially known as “the world.”

●“United States of Food” celebrates, Discovery says, “eats” that people across the nation can’t get enough of, including bacon, steaks, burgers and the world’s largest BLT. You know, the stuff that’s killing us.

●“Cheating Las Vegas” takes a peek inside the world of card counting and modern casino “scams,” including marking decks, computer hacking and malicious software.

●“Ghost Town Gold” follows pickers to the “last frontier of American archaeology — the old ghost towns, abandoned mining camps and industrial graveyards of the Wild West” in search of collectible artifacts.

And, to help jump-start the new network, “BBQ Pitmasters” is moving to the channel from TLC, premiering June 3 with a sneak peek May 30.

To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/
tvblog
.

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