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‘Today’ show expected to get its first female boss

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Ann Curry gets the last laugh.

The dumping of Curry in favor of Savannah Guthrie on the “Today” show has not been a success. So NBC announced late Tuesday that the guy in charge of the show, Jim Bell, has been named executive producer of NBCUniversal’s Olympics coverage full time.

NBC is expected to announce that Bell is being replaced on “Today” — by an actual woman, which would be a “Today” show first.

The odds-on favorite within the industry is Alexandra Wallace, a senior VP of NBC News. The New York Times reported late Monday that she is expected to take the job.

In Tuesday’s announcement, NBC noted that Bell rejoins NBC Sports Group after seven years of leading “Today,” the program that dominated the morning infotainment show race for 16 years — until ABC’s “Good Morning America” blasted it out of the top spot in early April.

NBC also noted that Bell served as both executive producer of “Today” and of NBC’s coverage of the London Olympics last summer.

It had been a given among The Reporters Who Cover Television that Bell was toast, given the “Today” show’s continued ratings problems, Curry’s botched exit and the general uncomfortable-making dynamic among its on-air talent during its first two hours.

Names of possible Bell replacements have been floating about for weeks.

It’s the probable selection of a woman that’s making news. Wallace has experience in the day part, having produced the weekend edition of “Today” before moving over to the night side, where she exec-produced “NBC Nightly News.” She then took over the news division’s prime-time head-scratcher, “Rock Center With Brian Williams.”

A couple of months ago, Bell said that it was his decision to show Curry the door — and not the decision of her longtime co-anchor Matt Lauer, who took most of the blame in the court of public opinion. At that time, Bell indicated that Curry’s year in the co-anchor chair was sufficient to determine she was not a good fit.

But Curry’s teary on-air exit from the show did not sit well with viewers, and the pairing of Lauer with Guthrie has done nothing to wipe that bad image from memory.

Curry got the hook in June because the show was already in ratings trouble, and ABC’s “Good Morning America” was taking over as the new morning infotainment front-runner.

But her departure didn’t fix the problem. “GMA” continued to rank No. 1 in the ratings derby during 11 of 13 weeks between late June and the start of the official TV season in September, with “Today” beating “GMA” only during the two weeks in the summer when it broadcast from the London Games.

Six weeks into the current TV season, “Today” continues to trail “GMA” among all viewers, and has lost five of the past six weeks among 25-to-54-year-old viewers who are the currency of news programming.

In the most recent week for which ratings are available, “Today” edged “GMA” in that age bracket by 8,000 viewers.

Elmo accuser recants

The man who claimed he had a sexual relationship with longtime “Sesame Street” puppeteer Kevin Clash while underage has recanted one day after the story broke in the media.

“I am relieved that this painful allegation has been put to rest. I will not discuss it further,” Clash, the puppeteer and voice of of “Sesame Street’s” Elmo for nearly three decades, said in a statement.

Earlier, the law firm that purports to represent the accuser said in a statement that the man withdrew his claim and acknowledged that “his sexual relationship with Mr. Clash was an adult consensual relationship.”

On Monday, Sesame Workshop said that it had met with the accuser after it first received a communication from the then-23-year-old man in June. Sesame Workshop said that it also met with Clash and that after a “thorough investigation . . . found the allegation of underage conduct to be unsubstantiated.”

The production company also said that it had put Clash on leave while he took steps “to protect his reputation.”

The law firm representing the accuser had claimed that Sesame Workshop placed “greater value on a puppet than the well-being of a young man,” according to TMZ, which first reported the story Monday.

“We are pleased that this matter has been brought to a close, and we are happy that Kevin can move on from this unfortunate episode,” the Sesame Workshop said Tuesday.

Sara Ganim to CNN

CNN rebounded nicely from Monday’s devastating news that it had lost hunky weatherman Rob Marciano to “Entertainment Tonight,” announcing Tuesday that it has hired Sara Ganim as a correspondent based in Atlanta.

Ganim, who joins CNN from the Patriot News in Harrisburg, Pa., broke the story of the grand jury investigation into Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University football defensive coordinator who was found guilty of child sex abuse.

The Sandusky case enveloped the university, including its late football coach Joe Paterno, and Sandusky’s Second Mile Charity in scandal. Ganim won a Pulitzer Prize for her reporting.

And you’ve already seen her on CNN and HLN as on-air contributor during those networks’ coverage of Sandusky’s trial and conviction.

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

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