Even before Ann Curry slipped out of her “Today” show co-hosting gig Thursday morning, scuttlebutt began scuttling about her presumptive replacement, Savannah Guthrie.
Will Savannah Guthrie be the empress of your morning viewing? Will Savannah Guthrie cause viewers to spring from their beds and skip to the television to bask in its soothing pre-dawn glow? Can she be a screen-pal?
NBC’s lips are zipped, but current and former colleagues are sure that Guthrie — who appears on “Today’s” 9 o’clock hour — is eminently up to the job. On Thursday, she used her law degree and her serious glasses to walk Matt Lauer and the nation through the intricacies of the Supreme Court’s health-care ruling.
“She’s like the smartest, hardest-working girl in school who is also kind of cool, but in a geeky kind of way,” says a friend and colleague who was not authorized to speak on the record. “There are not a lot of normal people in the business.”
“It’s kind of hard to quantify,” says Curtis Varns, a colleague at one of her earliest newsroom jobs in Missouri. “But she was better than most everyone we get here at entry-level. I can say that now, after [having been here] for 17 years.”
Guthrie has won approval from the wonks, with a complete set of Washington bona fides: After post-college reporting jobs in Missouri and Arizona — her home state — she headed east to Georgetown’s law school and graduated with honors. She worked for Court TV. She became a White House correspondent.
This training prepared her for . . . gabbing about Yahtzee with Jenna Bush? Admiring a selection of West Elm plates appropriate for a Fourth of July barbecue? She has done both this past week on the “Today” show.
“Are these plastic?” she asked, sounding genuinely interested. “Great for a back yard.”
When we discuss being up for the job of morning television, we must first acknowledge that the job of morning television is a high-wire act.
It’s a light-roast breakfast blend of news and nonsense that must be tweaked and toned and futzed with in search of some elusive alchemy. It’s hard to explain the juju required to propel America through the hours of its first coffee. Media reporters have overanalyzed why some morning hosts work and some don’t, but maybe what it comes down to is that mornings are gross.
At 6 a.m., it’s not so much about whom we can trust as about whom we can stand.
This person must be willing to gab about the inanity your morning brain can handle. This person must not make you feel self-conscious about the holey state of your bathrobe.
Katie Couric pulled it off with aplomb, as did her successor, Meredith Vieira. Curry suffered from what shall henceforth be known as the Gwyneth Paltrow problem: She is too sleek, and the nicer she tries to be, the more people think she’s faking it. She’s lovely but buttoned-up, down to her crisp-linen name — no extraneous “e” at the end of that “Ann.”
Guthrie “is from a newer generation of broadcasters who are allowed to be more relaxed on air,” says Stephen Battaglio, the sociologist of morning-talk-show hosts by dint of his book “From Yesterday to TODAY.” “And the fact that she’s done other things besides be on television . . . she gives [her work] an instant layer of authenticity.”
Good for breakfast. If you’re up that early.