Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer on “Today.” (Peter Kramer/AP)

NBC News’s beleaguered “Today” show, and its star Matt Lauer, this week began the third stage on the road to ratings recovery:


“ [I’m] a bit surprised to be asked to host this dinner…These days, I only get asked to host dinners if polio is busy — Yup, I have a lower Q rating than polio right now,” Lauer joked this week, hosting a rubber chicken dinner honoring Bloomberg Media Group CEO Andrew Lack.

As he introduced presenter Katie Couric, Lauer said, “Who can forget when she was co-host of the ‘Today’ show? She got a colonoscopy on TV. Not to be outdone, two weeks ago, I got one in The New York Times.”

In case you have been too busy to notice, more than a year ago, Ann Curry became Lauer’s co-host and, in her first year, the show attracted fewer viewers than ABC’s “Good Morning America” for four weeks, ending “Today’s more than 16-year winning ratings streak.

“Today” began its recovery trek.

First Stage: Toss Female On-Air Talent into Volcano.

“I’m going to have to tell our viewers…I don’t want to leave them. I love them,” Curry wailed the day before she was tossed, to USA Today.

“They’re giving me some fancy new titles,” Curry wailed some more the next day, as she was being tossed.

Lauer tried to kiss her on her cheek. She jerked her cheek away; Lauer broke out in a eczema of The Guy to Blame.

Second Stage: Stout Denial.

Matt gave interview to The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz saying he was totally broken up about the whole thing, and that he kept telling NBC they should do away with Curry slowly (one limb at a time, maybe?) only those dim bulbs at NBC did not listen to him, botched the whole thing, and now he’s paying the price for the network’s dumb cluck-ery.

Last week — the one before Lauer began using Comedy — ABC News’s “Good Morning America” again beat “Today” in the ratings.

It was “GMA’s” ninth consecutive week in first place; the ABC show led “Today” by 702,000 viewers and 63,000 viewers between the age of 25-and-54 years — the currency of news programming ad sales.

In so doing, “GMA” has ranked No. 1 every week in overall audience for more than eight months. In the age bracket, “GMA” has ranked No. 1 for 26 of the past 31 weeks.

NBC News, however, noted that during the last four weeks — since the start of Daylight Savings Time — “Today” has narrowed the gap in the age bracket by 71 percent versus the previous four weeks.

Those four weeks prior to the start of Daylight Savings Time were also sweeps weeks, and “GMA” really poured on the ratings-attracting stunts, including Oscar-related segments (ABC broadcasts the Academy Awards annually), the announcement of the next celebrity cast of “Dancing with the Stars” and, most notably, the return of co-anchor Robin Roberts after a dramatic medical leave.

Both shows’s ratings fell after the sweeps, which is never surprising.

“GMA’s” just fell more than “Today’s.” “GMA” still wins.