'Today' Show Anchors: Who Made the Biggest Splash
In light of the Meredith Vieira’s possible departure, THR looks at the most famous faces on the No. 1 morning show.
NBC's Today show debuted on Jan. 14, 1952, and has gone on to become the fourth-longest running television series in TV history. (It expanded to Sundays in 1987, and Saturdays in 1992; the daily broadcast was lengthened to three hours in 2000, and four hours in 2007.)
As insiders tell The Hollywood Reporter that co-host Meredith Vieira is unlikely to renew her contract when it expires this September, look back on the show’s memorable anchor moments over the years:
In a 2010 interview with Broadcasting & Cable, Walters said she'd had it written into her contract that she'd be officially given the co-host title after anchor Frank McGee left the show -- or died (which he did in 1974). "And no, I did not kill him," she joked. Walters -- who had been at the show for 13 years by that point as researcher, writer and "Today Girl" -- co-anchored until 1976, with Hugh Downs (1962-1966), McGee (1971-1974) and Jim Hartz (1974-1976).
Jane Pauley and Deborah Norville
Norville became the unofficial third host after joining the show in 1989 as news reader -- and soon rumors flew that she was the younger replacement for Pauley, who had been at the show since 1982, in effort to attract the key demo of younger female viewers. Even Saturday Night Life featured a skit called All About Deborah Norville, a parody of All About Eve, which depicted Norville as ruthless in her efforts to replace Pauley. Norville was co-host until 1991, when she was replaced by Katie Couric.
In 1989, Gumbel wrote then-executive producer Marty Ryan a memo that criticized Willard Scott for holding "the show hostage to his assortment of whims, wishes, birthdays and bad taste… This guy is killing us and no one's even trying to rein him in." Of Gene Shalit's movie reviews, he wrote, "they're often late and his interviews aren't very good." He ended up making up with Scott on-air after the backlash. He left the show in 1997.
Katie Couric and Matt Lauer
The New York Times' Alessandra Stanley's infamous takedown of Couric in 2005 pointed to ratings issues because of "the strained chemistry between Ms. Couric and her colleagues - Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Ann Curry." (She also noted that Couric had "morphed into the mercurial diva down the hall. At the first sound of her peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels, people dart behind doors and douse the lights.”) Couric hosted from 1997 to 2006.