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Report: Zucker May Reunite Couric, Lauer, Make It 1997 Again Through Science or Magic

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As I said through the many “person X may be leaving TV job Y” stories last week, I’ll believe these things when I see them. But I want to point out Bill Carter’s New York Times story that kicks forward the stories that Katie Couric and Matt Lauer may be moving on from the CBS Evening News and the Today Show respectively. Not because of those already-bruited-about possibilities, but because Carter says that the two may be reuniting on a syndicated talk show, the “creative force” behind which would be… former NBC chief (and Couric and Lauer’s ex-producer on Today) Jeff Zucker.

Anyone who sat through Emeril, The Jay Leno Show, or the nineteenth hour of The Biggest Loser may have a good laugh, as I did, at the pairing of “Zucker” and “creative force” in the same sentence. That’s not to say, as I have devil’s-advocate claimed before, that the guy is untalented. He was a good tactician as a scheduler: that why his big coups tended to involve expanding, supersizing or moving around properties that NBC already had. He had a good sense for the business of TV: NBC Universal cable did well under him, and while I hated The Jay Leno Show as a show, I still think it was simply the wrong response to a correctly-diagnosed problem, that network TV primetime is shrinking toward unsustainability. And as news producer on Today, he was fast-moving with a good eye for the kind of theatrics that draw eyeballs in the morning.

So while I would not exactly call reuniting Couric and Lauer “creative,” it also seems distinctly Zuckerian as an idea: seizing tactically on the opportunity to have a success with something he had a success with two decades ago. With the state of flux not just at Today but in syndicated talk shows generally (goodbye, Oprah, goodbye, Regis), there’s certainly an opportunity for this show. If it ever happens. Which again, I will believe when I see it.