'Toast to 2014' Exec Producer Talks Selecting Stars, Stories for NBC News' Look Back

"It's things that you've seen before but really fun, witty people are commenting on them"
Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford hosting 'A Toast to 2014!'

You may think you've heard everything there is to say about this year's biggest stories, scandals, trends and viral videos, but have you heard Miss Piggy's opinions?

The outspoken Muppet is just one of the famous faces dishing on the buzziest headlines of the year in NBC's A Toast to 2014! special, hosted by Today co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. Other stars reflecting on the past 12 months include Chris Pratt, Debra Messing, Bethenny Frankel, Russell Brand, Weird Al Yankovic, Sherri Shepherd, William Shatner, Katherine Heigl, Bob Costas, Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski.

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Executive producer Liz Cole tells The Hollywood Reporter that when it came to deciding which stars to approach to comment on the year's biggest stories for the NBC News-produced special, they first looked to the talent within the expansive NBCUniversal family. Indeed, Messing, Heigl, Alfre Woodard and Monica Potter all star on NBC shows, while other commentators include Today show talent Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Lester Holt, Willie Geist, Jenna Bush Hager, Tamron Hall and Dylan Dreyer along with Meredith Vieira, whose eponymous daytime talk show is produced and distributed by NBCUniversal Domestic TV Distribution. Others also have NBCUniversal connections: Pratt is starring in Universal's Jurassic World; Frankel will rejoin Bravo's Real Housewives of New York for its seventh season; Weir and Lipinski were recently named NBC Sports' lead figure skating broadcast team; Ian Ziering starred in Syfy's Sharknado sequel and Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner, of course, stars on E!'s Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

Some stars, like Miss Piggy, were asked about everything, but others talked about a few topics. "If we're talking to Bob Costas, we're going to ask him about sports events," she said. "If we're talking to Johnny Weir and Tara Lipinski, we'll ask them about sports, but we'll also ask them about style."

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Cole says the commentators' perspectives helps keep topics that may have already been discussed at great length feel fresh.

"I think that the fun of this special is that it's things that you've seen before but really fun, witty people are commenting on them, and they're watching along with you, and they're adding their own insight," Cole explained.

Viewers will also be reminded of some of the much-talked-about subjects from the beginning of the year, which they've likely forgotten about by now.

"Some of the things that happened early in the year, the news cycle goes so quickly now it actually feels like quite a long time ago," Cole said. "And it's interesting to revisit them all these months later and sort of put [each moment] into perspective when you see it strung along with everything else that happened during the year."

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Though the interviews occurred fairly late in the year so this year's guests could talk about a variety of topics, Cole says the team behind the two-hour show spent the last 12 months compiling a list of what to feature.

"I think because we did this last year, we had a pretty good template in place already," Cole noted. "We already had ideas for the kinds of things we wanted to include."

Since it's a lighthearted, fun look back, the show steers clear of topics that are too serious, including some international news stories. But the videos featured, such as the viral clips, weren't hard to identify.

"They're the things that probably landed in your inbox this year because everyone was talking about them and everyone was watching them," Cole said.

A Toast to 2014! airs at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 31. Watch a preview of the special below.

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