Maybe Ann Curry and Conan O’Brien should get together for a drink sometime. For a long while, she was second banana on NBC’s Today show, where she had read the news since the late ’90s. After Katie Couric left the program, her chair went to Meredith Vieira. When Vieira left last year, NBC did not necessarily seem over the moon about Curry as its next star but — much like with O’Brien — did not want to see her leave to the competition either. Last June, she took over the co-host job. About a year later, word is out that NBC is getting ready to replace her. (She showed up this morning, though the New York Times reported that NBC was ready to have Hoda Kotb step in for her.)
TV is a business — and morning TV, bigger business than most — and in the past year since Curry took over, Today has shown signs of vulnerability, losing some weeks to Good Morning America for the first time in over a decade. Even Curry’s critics would have a hard time blaming all of that on her, since the slump corresponds to a bad period in NBC’s prime-time ratings, which reverberates into late night, local newscasts and, ultimately, to the morning.
But the numbers were the numbers, and woe to the producer who becomes known as the one who lost Today’s lead. And it had seemed for a long time that Curry was a difficult fit. She often described the position as her “dream job,” but this may have been one of those cases of a person picking a dream that doesn’t quite suit them — the dream you’re supposed to have because it represents moving up. Curry has ample news experience and a clear enthusiasm for international news and crisis stories; she wasn’t chipper and folksy, maybe, but she did register genuine feeling when reporting on a humanitarian disaster.
But morning shows are, above all, about making viewers feel they are starting off the day in the company of a group of comfortable friends, and there was Curry’s problem. There’s a natural gap between the hosts of a morning show and the newsreader — the gap between the pure-news segment and the news-and-lifestyle mix of the rest of the show. And that gap never really closed when Curry crossed over; she sometimes seemed nervous or ill at ease and didn’t click with co-host Matt Lauer. She also vocally prided herself on being a news person first and could come off as bored by the cooking-and-celebs aspect of the job. (Which again raises the question of why she’d dream of the job in the first place. But I’m a TV critic, not a therapist.)
All of which, I should say, I have to see as an outsider. I’m not a regular morning-show viewer, and the idea that maybe they bored Curry a little bit, too, probably makes me sympathetic toward her. But NBC needs to appeal to people who like morning shows, or at least watch them regularly. If you’re one of them, let me know: Is NBC making the right call here? Who should take her place? And if Ann Curry and Today didn’t mesh, was it her fault or the show’s?