NBC promotes Don Nash to ‘Today’ show executive producer
By Lisa De Moraes,
Don Nash, a “Today” show veteran and its senior broadcast producer, has been named executive producer of the troubled NBC infotainment show.
He replaces Jim Bell, who a day earlier was sent back to NBC Sports in the wake of the morning show’s ongoing ratings tumble and his botched Ann Curry-to-Savannah Guthrie co-host swap-out.
Nash will report to Alexandra Wallace, who has been handed this headache and the title Executive in Charge of “Today.”
Nash will be responsible for all four hours of “Today” content, NBC said Wednesday.
“Don Nash deserves to be at the helm of ‘Today,’ ” NBC News President Steve Capus said in detailing the shuffling.
“He is a beloved member of the ‘Today’ family who brings vision, commitment and a deep familiarity to all aspects of the broadcast. The formidable individual talents of Alex, Don and the ‘Today’ leadership are now combined, and I’m confident our team is well positioned for success.”
Here’s something you don’t often see: The announcement included a bit in which the guy who got pulled from the job slapped the new guy on the back.
“I am thrilled for Don and for ‘Today,’ ” Bell was quoted as saying.
“I know firsthand the show will benefit from Don’s unmatched morning-television experience, control-room skill and leadership.”
Well, if Bell knew all that, why didn’t he take advantage of it while the show was going down, under his watch?
This season, “Today” is logging its smallest audience in nearly two decades.
In April, ABC’s “Good Morning America” ended “Today’s” 16-year weekly ratings winning streak. “Today” hasn’t scared up more viewers than “GMA” since returning from the London Olympics, despite the Curry-for-Guthrie switch.
Anyway, Nash is a whopping 23-year veteran of “Today” and, over the past seven years, has orchestrated the live broadcast from the control room each morning and played an integral role in day-to-day programming.
Nash began his career at NBC in 1989, as a page in Burbank, Calif. After completing the network’s Page Program, he became a production assistant at “Today’s” Burbank bureau. Over the next 10 years, Nash got promoted to associate producer and producer, and in 1999 moved to New York to become a senior producer for the show.
Maybe more to the point: In 2002, Nash was named executive producer of “Weekend Today,” where he ran all aspects of the show, including content, marketing, sales and finance — as the show garnered all-time ratings highs.
In 2005, he returned to the weekday edition of “Today” as senior broadcast producer.
Wallace, meanwhile, moves up a notch on our News Execs Deserving of Our Sympathy list; she’s going to continue as executive producer of NBC News’s troubled prime-time newsmag “Rock Center With Brian Williams” — a.k.a This Season’s Least-Watched Prime-time Program on a Big Four Network That’s Not Called “Kitchen Nightmares.”
Of LiLo and ‘Liz’
Lindsay Lohan was hired to play Elizabeth Taylor on Lifetime’s upcoming biopic “Liz & Dick” because she’s “dangerous”; because she could seriously relate to being a child star who grew up being hounded by paparazzi and drinking heavily; because she will attract younger viewers who only knew Liz Taylor as that odd-looking old lady in the wheelchair next to Michael Jackson; and because it would make his mother proud, the show’s exec producer told somewhat stunned Reporters Who Cover Television on Wednesday.
“Producing a movie with Lindsay Lohan is not for the faint of heart,” Larry Thompson said, stating the obvious, early in the conference call.
Thompson did the phoner to promote the bioflick’s Nov. 25 premiere. Lohan stars as Liz, and New Zealander Grant Bowler plays acclaimed thespian and two-time Taylor husband Richard Burton. The movie covers their nearly quarter-century relationship, starting with their meeting and affair on the set of that orgy of excess that was 20th Century Fox’s “Cleopatra,” their dumping of respective spouses, marriage, divorce, remarriage and re-divorce.
Although the movie hasn’t even been reviewed by critics yet — they haven’t been able to see it — “Liz & Dick” already may be the most-written-about Lifetime movie ever. That’s because Lohan got into a car wreck during production, repeatedly showed up late — and, oh yeah, there was that time she was in her hotel room and not responding, and someone called 911 and paramedics showed up.
La Lohan assured Barbara Walters, who’d visited the set thinking she was getting a major interview, that the paramedic call was just one of those silly misunderstandings in which she needed a 15-minute nap and they thought she was dead.
“When we finally decided to hire her, we had serious challenges to deal with . . . due to her probation and her history,” Thompson said matter-of-factly about Lohan.
“We had to make a deal where there were pages and pages of ‘what if’ clauses. . . . What if there is a car accident? What if there is a violation of her probation [and] she would be incarcerated? Those ‘what ifs’ were plenty.
“But through insurance — and I will add she might be the most-insured actress who ever walked on a soundstage — we tried to insure ourselves against things that could, and in fact did, happen.”
He noted, “I’ve certainly worked with actresses whose behavior during production was less problematic” than Lindsay’s, but he insisted that she was perfectly cast.
Taylor and Lohan have so much in common, Thompson pointed out. The movie opens when Taylor is 29 years old — Lohan is 26.
To read previous columns by Lisa de Moraes, go to washingtonpost.com/