Meredith and Matt Make Merry

Meredith Vieira can't smile any wider seated by
Meredith Vieira can't smile any wider seated by "cute guy" Matt Lauer for her "Today" debut. (By Robert Caplin -- Bloomberg News)
By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, September 14, 2006

"Ifeel like it's the first day at school and I'm sitting next to the cutest guy!" Meredith Vieira gushes on her first day co-anchoring NBC's "Today" show, after nine years playing The Sane One on ABC's morning gal-gaggle "The View."

"I haven't been more excited to come to work since the day Bryant [Gumbel] announced he was leaving!" Matt Lauer replies, and you believe he really means it. If you close your eyes and try to imagine it's still 1991, it's almost as if Katie Couric never happened to the show.

Today it's all about Meredith, starting with carefully orchestrated, good-natured ribbing between the two hosts.

It's still 'Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira,' " Meredith says of their billing on the morning infotainment show.

"I don't think that's going to change," Matt says.

Is the joking over already?

Changing the subject slightly, Meredith assures him, "I'm going to be the 'broad' in broadcasting" for which, of course, there is no good response a guy can safely give, and Matt wisely doesn't go there.

Later, Meredith holds up a photo of Matt looking pretty cut in swim trunks at the beach, then producers show a clip of President Bush holding up the same magazine photo and asking Matt for his autograph.

"He's turned on by your abs!" Meredith teases.

Matt threatens to show viewers an old photo of Meredith from Esquire magazine. Peals of laughter.

"Today" is also debuting its new Hi-Def set this morning. "Hi-Def is dangerous," Meredith complains to Matt, who stretches back his crow's-feet with his hands.

Remind me again how this show is different from "The View" and Meredith has returned to "journalism"? Oh, that's right -- Ann Curry, a.k.a. Did Not Get the Job, reads the news for a few minutes every so often.

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