Meredith Vieira, who promised to be “authentic” on her new syndicated daytime talk show, showed up on her first day in blue jeans — international “authentic” garment — and told her studio audience she came back “because I missed you – I did!”, adding “daytime television has the unique ability to connect with people on a very personal level.”
Her husband and daughter introduced a video they said they hoped would embarrass Vieira as much as she had embarrassed them over the years, as co-host of Today, air-traffic controller of The View, and host of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. In the video, her family spoke of her domestic ineptitude, her lousy driving skills, her love of curse words, her tendency to cry over glutinous TV ads – like the one in which the family dumps its old mop for a newer, better mop, and the sad old mop is left standing outside in the cold, looking in at the happy family and their new mop. They also discussed her love of animals large and small — including moths — and her love of surprises – at which point she was surprised by the appearance of her two sons, who’d flown in from far flung places. “I’m gonna have a heart attack. THIS is what it takes to get my family together. Thank you syndication!” Vieira gushed, weeping buckets.
Some Broadway stars and Rockettes came out and sang a little, danced a little, and distributed HP laptops to everyone in the audience. “You really are getting the next HP X360!” Vieira shouted. The studio audience screamed its approval.
On its opening day, at least, Vieira’s show was lighter in tone than the syndicated talk shows of her Today show’s predecessors Jane Pauley and Katie Couric — both of whom famously flamed out. The goofier tone played nicely into the image Vieira has carefully honed during her years with those other programs. NBCU pulled out all the stops to promote today’s debut. In February NBC brought Vieira to Sochi to co-host the Winter Games’ Opening Ceremony with Matt Lauer and do segments for Today on U.S. athletes to watch at the Games. When Bob Costas’ came down with pink-eye it was a promotional plus for Vieira, who made TV history, becoming the first woman to ever anchor NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage, filling in for Costas. This morning, NBC had Vieira sub for Today show co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, who is on maternity leave, and surprised her with one of her favorite all-time guests, Abe Vigoda.
The debut’s Q&A with Jennifer Lopez was something of a bust – though JLo did shoot down the story that she’d been homeless while trying to break in to showbiz, explaining her mother wasn’t thrilled she didn’t go to college in order to pursue her dream of breaking in to the industry, so she had slept at the dance studio until she found an apartment with a friend. Vieira showed a clip from Lopez’ new Universal-distributed movie The Boy Next Door, in which Lopez plays a recently divorced women who has an affair with the neighbors hot teen son, only things get messy when he starts to stalk her, telling her son, “I love your mother’s cookies” in the worst possible sense of “love” and “cookies.” “It was a fun movie to make,” JLo smiled. “It’s intense.”
Hoda Kotb joined them to play CAR-aoke, in which the three women pretended to be driving in a car that’s in the studio, and Vieira and Kotb – both famously tone deaf – sang pop tunes that JLo tried to recognize. Ironically, the one that took JLo longest to recognize was one of her own. “I know the words – but the melody’s so bad!” JLo complained before figuring it out.
The show wound up with a touching dance performance by a group of young girls with physical challenges who belong to an organization called Dancing Dreams. Stage moms were seen in the audience giving the girls the international stage-mom hand-signal for “Smile!” One member of the group mentioned they dreamed of performing at Lincoln Center. “You don’t have to dream about it any more!” Vieira said, revealing her show has arranged with the New York City Ballet to have the girls perform at Lincoln Center.
‘Big Thank you to New York City Ballet to have helped these incredible girls for helping realize their dream,” Vieira said wrapping up her first show to barely a dry eye in the house.