8:13am PT by Jordan Zakarin
'Today' Show 'Legend' Meredith Vieira Returns With Olympics Announcement; Sarah Palin Introduced as Guest Host
It was a busy Monday at NBC studios, with returning stars, national names and rumors of top new talent all playing a role in a supersized edition of Today. And that was just the beginning.
With ABC's Good Morning America featuring former Today mainstay Katie Couric in her first day as weeklong guest host and CBS This Morning boasting the star power of an extended Oprah Winfrey interview, the No. 1 early show had to work hard to maintain its industry-leading viewership.
All weekend, the network teased the return of a "Today legend," and on Monday, it was revealed to be Meredith Vieira, who co-hosted the show with Matt Lauer from September 2006 until last summer. She appeared to announce that she would have a special role during the network's coverage of the Summer Olympics in London.
Some might have found that to be unworthy of all the buildup, but the show was just getting started. On Tuesday, former Alaska Gov. and GOP nominee for vice president Sarah Palin will co-host the 8 o'clock hour of Today, and ahead of that spot, she made a brief appearance with her colleagues-to-be.
Lauer got in a little dig at Palin during their chat.
"What are you doing to prepare?" Lauer asked her. "Are you reading some newspapers?"
That, of course, refers to the difficulty Palin had naming papers that she read during an interview with Couric on the CBS Evening News during the thick of the 2008 presidential election.
Beyond the one-day appearance by Palin and the short-term Olympics gig for Vieira, NBC is bringing in a more permanent new face, though he's anything but an unknown. Late Sunday night, Jim Bell, the program's executive producer, tweeted news that Ryan Seacrest will have a major announcement to make during Tuesday's show.
Seacrest already has a deal with NBC's parent company, but the new contract he is rumored to be signing will possibly contain clauses for appearances on Today. Bell confirmed as much, tweeting, "Would @RyanSeacrest have more fun doing weather for Al or having a cocktail in the 10am with Kathie Lee? What is your drink Ryan?"