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Gifford Hire Will Make ‘Today’s’ Fourth Hour ‘Live As Can Be,’ Bell Says

Mar 31, 2008  •  Post A Comment

Now that he’s hired Kathie Lee Gifford, one of daytime TV’s past masters of live, off-the-cuff conversation about what’s going on in the world, “Today” executive producer Jim Bell says he plans to open the 6-month-old fourth hour of the NBC franchise with live, topical chitchat between Ms. Gifford and her co-host, Hoda Kotb.
He talked of the hour being more personality-driven and “live as can be” while the co-hosts will “be their smart, fun, topical selves” as headliners of the hour that airs at 10 a.m. on most NBC-affiliated stations.
“You’re talking about somebody who is an originator of that format, and it certainly plays to her strengths, Hoda’s as well, I mean, smart and topical and fun and reacting to the news of the day,” Mr. Bell said Monday after announcing Ms. Gifford will report to work on “Today” on April 7.
While adding Ms. Gifford to the fourth hour of “Today,” Mr. Bell is rededicating Ms. Kotb’s founding fourth-hour co-anchors, the peripatetic Ann Curry and Natalie Morales, to the first three hours of the longtime No. 1 morning show.
“Nobody ever said anything, but we could just tell we were asking them to do a lot,” Mr. Bell said. Ms. Curry, for instance, is in Pennsylvania this week for an interview with Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama and next week is scheduled to conduct an exclusive interview with the Dalai Lama about the Chinese crackdown in Tibet.
Ms. Curry also anchors “Dateline NBC” and subs for “Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams; she also travels to high-profile stories in far-flung locales such as Darfur, Pakistan and New Orleans.
“She’d do 14 hours [a day] if you asked her to,” Mr. Bell said. But, he said, it “just became too much. I think we all had to realize it. And Natalie as well.”
As the negotiations with Ms. Gifford proceeded, the Gifford-in-for-Curry-and-Morales strategy simply began to make more sense to network executives, Mr. Bell said. “We all feel like we’ve simultaneously, in one move, helped the fourth hour,” the first three hours and two of the show’s workhorse stars, he said.
“Today” launched the fourth hour in September, with Ms. Kotb joining Ms. Curry and Ms. Morales as co-hosts of discussions that revolve around issues considered of particular interest to women, including aging, diet, cooking, shopping and fashion.
Last Friday, the fourth hour logged 2.3 million viewers, its best single-day total viewership since Feb. 22, according to data from Nielsen Media Research.
An Entertainment Weekly poll reported some 88% of respondents said they have no interest in watching Ms. Gifford on “Today.” A spokeswoman for the NBC morning show said the magazine’s reader base tends to be younger than “Today’s” core audience.
Ms. Gifford “is a morning television icon and is on a short list of personalities known by her first name alone,” Mr. Bell said in the release announcing her hire. “We are looking forward to her signature warmth and sense of humor in the fourth hour. Her addition to the ‘Today’ family makes us stronger than ever, and she and Hoda will continue the ‘Today’ tradition of smart, topical and fun morning television.”
It was during her 15 years as Regis Philbin’s chatty co-host of the syndicated hit “Live With Regis and Kathie Lee” that Ms. Gifford became a household name and an 11-time Emmy nominee. Ms. Gifford struck out on her own in 2000 and has since written an Off Broadway musical, tended her charitable causes and served a stint as a contributor to “The Insider.”
“I am truly honored to join the ‘Today’ show family, many of whom have been friends and colleagues of mine for years,” Ms. Gifford said in the announcement. “And I’m especially looking forward to working with Hoda, a bright and beautiful woman I admire very much. Together I hope we will bring a fresh and fun perspective to the topics that affect all of our daily lives.”

53 Comments

  1. Kathy Lee will be a good add to the fourth hour…like Bell stated above, she is a daytime TV icon who will draw an audience. (Historically TODAY lived through J. Fred Muggs…anybody after him is a cakewalk).
    As for Ms. Curry, she is brilliant. I just hope she will learn how to truly INTERVIEW her subjects, rather than her SOP of incorporating an answer into a long narrative about the interviewee leaving them to nod yes or no when she finishes.
    Peter Bright

  2. I still 4 hours of Today is too much. It shows a lack of crativity on NBC’s part.
    Since there will be different hosts, NBC should treat it as a different show with a different name-it is not shonw consecutively with the first three hours in many markets, aynway.

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