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Could 'Good Morning America's' Josh Elliott be the next Matt Lauer?

"Good Morning America's" Josh Elliott with Robin Roberts

"Good Morning America's" Josh Elliott with Robin Roberts and Lara Spencer on Sept. 20, 2012. (Credit: ABC)

"Good Morning America's" Josh Elliott as the next co-anchor of "Today."

Let that thought, which is all it is, roll around your head for a minute. Get your arms around it. Think about why it might work or might not work. Think about what a Josh Elliott move to "Today" might mean, and what a Josh Elliott move from "GMA" might mean for that show. Think about the precedence of it all . . . the drama of it all.

Most of all think this: Could Josh Elliott actually jump to "Today?"

Before all of you get your knickers in a knot, remember what I said: This is just a thought. But what if I told you I'm not the only one who has had this thought -- that it has certainly occurred to Those Who Run NBC, and to Those Who Run ABC.

It's one of those thoughts that has been "out there," you know the kind, which usually comes under the heading of idle speculation. But it has been out there and for months now.

Here's an old rule in morning television which I just made up: Never ever overlook the obvious. The obvious in the instance of "Today's" ongoing issues is certainly the question of who will replace Matt Lauer one of these days, or years. Elliott has to be considered one of the obvious.

In an otherwise finely reported piece in New York Magazine, appearing on stands this morning, the writer, Joe Hagan, buried what was absolutely the biggest, and perhaps only piece of dynamite in the entire story with this line, which appears at the very end : 

Indeed informed speculation inside NBC that Lauer could leave within the year. ­MSNBC’s Willie Geist, the Morning Joe anchor who also appears in the third hour of Today, is often mentioned as a replacement, but so are others, including "Good Morning America’s" Josh Elliott.

Geist is, of course, the sure bet. But sure bets have a way of turning into a pile of sand. Also, networks need other sure bets for tactical and negotiating advantages. If Willie knows he's the only one in the running, then advantage Willie. If there's someone else out there, which is an impression NBC might want to foster, then there's a real negotiation.

For most people reading this piece, that is certainly the first time they've heard the Elliott speculation, even though it's been rattling around TV circles for months. Why didn't the writer make more of it? Because as mentioned, it remains just speculation. But speculation has a way of accruing power, and then becoming fact.

I remember as an example years ago when there was speculation about a young national affairs correspondent who  might one day succeed the flailing Deborah Norville at "Today." Will never happen! said those in the know. Absolutely untrue, said NBC  News flak. She's too young! No one's ever heard of her. Has no hosting experience.

Etcetera. Of course you know my punch line. She was Katie Couric.

The challenges of bringing Elliott over to "Today?" Besides contractual -- and who knows for certain exactly what those are except ABC, Elliott and his management team --  they are considerable. Morning television talent is usually homegrown, like the Yankees, they get their Jeters from within. Matt --- as he was wondering which branch to cut (he was going to start a tree-cutting business) -- got a call from an NBC station executive who brought him to WNBC/4; rest is history.

But not all talent is homegrown: Meredith Vieira arrived from "The View" -- as you note, an ABC program.

Elliott at "Today?" He's reportedly a difficult personality behind the scenes - that's well-known in TV circles - but was Bryant Gumbel a piece of cake? His national profile is still not all that high -- he remains essentially one of the sideshow figures at "GMA," with ringmasters Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos in the center. No doubt he and his agents are anticipating the moment George leaves -- possibly as "World News" anchor. But also no doubt the thought has occurred to him: What about  "Today" -- one of the great franchises in American television. What if . . . what if . . .?

Tags: josh elliott , nbc , today show , matt lauer

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