For Savannah Guthrie’s ‘Today’ moment, girlish jocularity by the boatload
By Lisa De Moraes,
Monday — the first official day of Moving On at NBC’s “Today” show — was carefully tailored to show us what new co-host Savannah Guthrie has that ousted co-host Ann Curry had a great big lack of.
In an age of rush and hurry, it is possible that — here and there throughout the ranks of those who read The TV Column — there may be one or two who for various reasons have not kept up with the soap opera that is the “Today” show. Here’s what you’ve missed:
Late last month, Curry was officially given the hook after nearly 20 years on “Today,” but just under one year as co-host. She was the victim of her insufficiently girlish rapport with show star Matt Lauer.
During Curry’s short tenure as co-host, the show’s ratings sank to the point where ABC’s “Good Morning America” beat it four times in the weekly ratings — ending “Today’s” 16-years-plus winning streak in the ratings.
Little more than a week after Ann sobbed to her fans, “I’m sorry I couldn’t carry the ball over the finish line, but, man, I did try!” and exited the show with who-knows-what vultures gnawing at her bosom, Lauer and Guthrie lobbed girlish rapport at each other like hard rolls at a food fight.
“It truly is a new day around here,” Matt told Savannah at the top of Monday’s show, adding: “We’re thrilled to have you here.”
“We have this goofy tradition, we get to do a little déjà vu,” he said, not wasting a minute.
At which point the “Today” Voiceover Guy — who’d already said it once at the start of the show — again said: “Savannah Guthrie, live from Studio 1A in Rockefeller Center!”
“You’re going to have to get used to that,” Matt said, like James Mason to Judy Garland in “A Star Is Born.”
“I’m glad you played it again, because I was so nervous, I didn’t hear it the first time,” said the woman who’s been with NBC News since September 2007, and NBC News’s chief legal correspondent and “Today” show’s 9 a.m. anchor since June of ’11.
“We’re happy because you bring a great attitude and what we like to call a weird sense of humor,” Matt continued.
“7:02, and he’s already calling me weird,” Savannah eye-rolled.
This enthralling conversation continued for the next half-hour.
“We’re going to get to know more about Savannah Guthrie and her hairstyles in the next half hour,” Matt promised.
At 7:41, “Today” took viewers through Savannah’s time to date on “Today”:
See Savannah screech “I’m not taking a dog biscuit!” when others were sampling them on stage.
See Savannah dressed up as Prince Charles.
From Savannah’s mom we learned that as a little girl, when “she got tired, she would just sit down right in the middle of the grocery store aisle. Then she’d threaten us and say, ‘I’ll cry!’
“She had a loud mouth,” her mother concluded.
See Savannah mention that Meredith Vieira — who preceded Ann as co-host of “Today” — “is one of my best friends.” Ouch.
Her dad, meanwhile, “was in mining. I like to say I was a coal miner’s daughter,” Savannah told viewers at home.
Her father, who died when she was 16, was a mining engineer, according to various press reports.
She got her name from her father — he named her after a grandmother.
But there’s a serious side to Savannah, too, viewers learned Monday.
She missed being No. 1 in her law school class by just two-tenths of 1 percent.
And journalistically, she’s got chops, according to “NBC Nightly News” anchor and chief news slow-jammer Brian Williams. To illustrate, the show ran a clip of Savannah interviewing Barney Frank in which he snapped at her, “Congratulations — 4 for 4 managing to find a negative approach.”
But enough of the seriousness — back to girlish jocularity.
Here’s Savannah asking Meryl Streep, “How do you do that?” – presumably regarding the actress’s uncanny ability to pick up on other people’s speech patterns, because Streep immediately shoots back, in perfect Savannah-ese: “How do you do that?”
While growing up, Savannah had Duran Duran posters. All over her room. “I loved them with a burning fire — all of them,” she said in a taped bit.
“I also really love I-just-broke-up-with-my-boyfriend chick music,” she confided.
Matt, she confessed, “really teases me. Relentlessly.”
“Once I realized he does that to everyone, I felt better,” she admitted.
Clip job over, Savannah told the “Today” show gang that watching it was “like attending your own funeral.”
“You could have chosen a better phrase,” said “Today” weatherman Al Roker, while everyone tried hard not to think about Ann’s last day.
But Matt wasn’t done demonstrating Savannah’s girlish jocularity:
“We found out one other thing. Your favorite book – ”
“No! No! No!” Savannah wailed.
Matt persisted: “The name of your favorite book— ”
“War and Peace!” Savannah interrupted.
“ — favorite book growing up was a book, your mom told me, ‘Dreams Can Come True’!”
“It featured the picture of a cheerleader,” Matt said, showing viewers a copy of the book.
He read from the book cover:
“She dreams of being beautiful, popular, becoming a cheerleader and dreams of having a handsome boyfriend.
“Then she sees Kip.”
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/tvcolumn.