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It’s been three months since Ann Curry was forced to leave NBC’s “Today” show, but the network is still dealing with the fallout.
The show’s executive producer, Jim Bell, appears to be on a mission to repair damage done to the show and its current host, Matt Lauer, after Curry’s messy departure. In recent days, Bell has granted interviews with The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter, and Curry has been the main topic of conversation.
In the interviews, Bell continues to defend the decision to replace Curry with Savannah Guthrie, and he repeatedly denies rumors that Lauer had made firing Curry a condition of his contract renewal.
“It was definitely not Matt’s call,” Bell told the Times’ Bill Carter. “He is the host and does not have management responsibility. It was not his call. That was my call.”
The interviews may be in response to reports that the “Today” show has constituently lost viewers since Curry’s departure. Radar Online also reported over the weekend that Lauer’s popularity has taken a hit, and The New York Daily News reported Monday that Lauer may soon have to take a pay cut to his $25 million salary due to the ratings drop.
Bell said appointing Guthrie is part of a long-term plan to regain the show’s first-place ranking. He also speculated on causes behind his show’s decline amidst the recent ratings surge that competitor “Good Morning America” has experienced. He pointed out that the two shows take very different approaches. “Today,” he said is “a more serious show.” When asked if he meant that “Good Morning America” is a tabloid-style show, Bell said, “That’s what I’m saying.”
NBC came under fire earlier this month when the “Today” show chose to air an interview with “Keeping Up With The Kardashians” reality star Kris Jenner rather than a moment of silence remembering the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. “Good Morning America,” as well as “CBS This Morning” and the cable news networks all carried the moment of silence.
In addition to Bell’s series of interviews, the New York Post’s “Page Six” reported this week that NBC spiked a sketch that poked fun at Curry’s exit. The skit was supposed to air during Sunday night’s Emmy Awards ceremony and would have featured cast members from ABC’s “Modern Family” and Curry playing a re-casted character on the sitcom.
“Ann was totally game,” the Post reported. But, “the idea went to NBC Universal CEO Steve Burke who then kicked it to NBC Entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt who nixed it.” The Post report then states that Burke and Greenblatt were not involved in the decision.
Before becoming a co-host, Curry was a news anchor on the “Today Show” from 1997 to 2011. Curry is now a special correspondent for the show, reporting mostly on international stories, “in the role she is naturally suited for,” Bell told the Times.