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For evidence that there may be some lingering bitterness at ABC in the wake of Josh Elliott's departure from "Good Morning America" for NBC Sports, look no further than Thursday's edition of "Good Morning America" where the network bid goodbye to its former star -- without the former star being there.
I'm hearing he was never even invited -- an indication ABC is probably angered at the way this whole thing has shaken out. In a conference call with sports media reporters Wednesday, Elliott said his move was a.) Not about the money nor b.) Had nothing with his relationship with ABC News chief, Ben Sherwood, whom he "loved" and so forth.
However . . . ABC, which offered him a reported $3-5 million to stay (versus the $2-3 million reported deal at NBC), may be feeling burned for a host of reasons. Foremost, even if Elliott never even sets foot inside Studio 1A -- as the potential successor to Matt Lauer, as industry chatter would have it -- he's suddenly put "GMA" in an awkward position. ABC was forced to scramble for a male replacement, surprising everyone, including the likely replacement himself, Michael Strahan. (Amy Robach will be the new news anchor; Strahan's role remains undefined at this point.)
Plus, as I've noted before, this confuses succession plans at ABC. George Stephanopoulos isn't going to be there forever -- hey, no one is going to be anywhere forever, except maybe Robin Roberts who now has a long-term deal and is absolutely vital to the ongoing success of this franchise. It had to have occurred to someone that Elliott might be a reasonable candidate for the job one of these days . . . Remember that in morning TV, successions don't happen over night, but usually take years.
More industry gossip: That Elliott hated the early, early mornings, and the hours, so maybe he had other ideas.
ABC declined to comment for this post, and Elliott could not be reached for comment.
"Good Morning America's" Josh Elliott -- coveted by NBC longer than the Yankees had coveted Masahiro Tanaka -- is finally going to NBC: The official line: He's joining NBC Sports, but few really believe that's the final stop for the soon-to-be former "GMA" news anchor who will be replaced by Amy Robach.
Ben Sherwood, the ABC News chief, said this in a memo, also distributed to the press:
"As many of you know, we have been negotiating with Josh these past several months. In good faith, we worked hard to close a significant gap between our generous offer and his expectations. In the end, Josh felt he deserved a different deal and so he chose a new path. I want to thank Josh for his many contributions to GMA and ABC News. Later in the week, we will bid him farewell."
Elliott's an interesting play for all sorts of reasons, but pre-eminent among those is the possibility that he will someday, and sooner than later, replace Matt Lauer. Lauer was damaged in the wake of Ann Curry's ouster, and while "Today's" ratings have improved, Matt's have not, necessarily.
Ask anyone in an official capacity at NBC about who will one day replace Matt and the answer is (not yet officially, because this is not yet "official") Willie Geist.
The reasons for Geist are compelling: He's an excellent broadcaster and a very smart guy, who has written books and knows how to interview stars (in one segment) and brain surgeons (in the next).
But it's unclear whether he has -- to use the old phrase -- lit up the boards. NBC wants an electric personality to replace Matt (when his deal ends). Lauer's long and hugely successful run ends next year, and so does his (estimated) $25 million-per-year contract. So now let the babbling begin: Will Josh be the guy? (Per reports, in the New York Post about two weeks ago, Josh wanted $8 million to stay at ABC; ABC wanted to cough up half that amount. Hey, it's TV. What can I say?)
Don't be surprised to see him on "Today" when he joins up to talk about . . . sports. And who knows what else! He's a member of the "family" now. Is Elliott the "electric" personality that NBC hopes he will be? We'll all find out together -- but he was part of a team that toppled the longest winning streaks in morning TV history. Maybe that's "electric" enough.
Meanwhile, back to the Yankees analogy: NBC is deploying a strategy that George would admire. Pick apart the winning team until . . . it's winning no longer. Smart strategy, but an expensive one, too.
"Good Morning America" had the big interview of the day Friday morning: Robin Roberts and Amanda Knox, talking about Thursday's murder conviction. Knox did her first live TV interview with Roberts last May, which preceded a Diane Sawyer special.
Last May, Knox was promoting her memoir, "Waiting to Be Heard," and at that time told Roberts, “I had to learn how to deal with it as I went through it. I was 20. I was in this foreign country. I barely spoke the language. And my friend was murdered.”
Friday morning's interview was certainly a sharp departure, in tone, demeanor and obviously context. Her voice quavering, her hair short, and her attitude defiant, here are just a few pull-quotes: "My first reaction was 'no' and 'this is wrong,' and I'm going to do everything I can to prove that it is and I felt very determined and my family felt very determined. But it was only on my way here that I got my first cry... This really has hit me like a train. I did not expect this to happen. I really expected so much better from the Italian justice system. They found me innocent before. How can they say it's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."
"I'm going to fight this until the very end. And it's not right and it's not fair. And I'm going to do everything I can." And this: She said she would not return "willingly" back to Italy.
Here's the interview, for those who missed (app readers, watch here: http://bit.ly/1a6MbrR. Unfortunately, this content is unavailable on mobile phones):
Elizabeth Vargas spoke in a taped segment with George Stephanopoulos that aired on Friday morning's "Good Morning America." It's quite good and worth watching, although I'm sure a few viewers gulped hard, looked in the mirror and said to themselves afterward..."Um, what about me?"
Vargas deserves a lot of credit for doing this -- it took guts, and is obviously an embarrassing subject. She gets remarkably confessional and even offers a general solution for those looking to break the habit.
What's missing are perhaps a few essential details: Exactly how much and how often. (She says on some occasion "up to four glasses" of wine.) Plus, did she actually become drunk, and what sort of behavioral changes ensued?
Also, most people can't afford rehab -- solutions for them? And this: The media is constantly telling viewers about the "health benefits" of wine -- the message, in other words, remains very much mixed.
Nevertheless, good for Vargas.
A week or so ago, Robin Roberts casually mentioned her girlfriend, Amber, in a Facebook post. Monday morning, the world finally got to meet this mysterious significant other, or at least briefly, via a photo of both Roberts and Amber Laign standing side by side at a relative's wedding. Of Amber, Roberts had this to say: She "loved me through a very difficult year."
The clip is below, and while the media may now treat this is a big so-what, it certainly is important and does beg some of those questions that often go begging at moments like this -- namely why now? Roberts has never exactly made a secret of her orientation, but it was never exactly spoken of in a public forum either.
There are certainly risks for public figures to come out as gay. As the recent Phil Robertson/A&E debacle established, there are those who are very vocal about their views about homosexuality. But she follows, at least in recent memory, Sam Champion and before him Anderson Cooper, who certainly haven't suffered career setbacks.
But why now as opposed to six months ago or a year from now? That's obviously for Roberts to answer -- maybe she will at some point.
Meanwhile, it's impossible to look upon anything that happens on "GMA" -- or "Today" for that matter -- in a vacuum. They remain bitter rivals who just this morning became a little more embittered, when "Today" announced yet another new initiative -- "Rise to Shine" -- that's a community outreach program but is clearly (also) part of new push to get viewers back and away from "GMA," with a tail wind from the Olympics which start in just 31 days.
Roberts' announcement should have no impact on that battle long-term -- but it certainly stole the initiative from "Today," which saw it's big "news" buried as a result.
Watch the "GMA" segment (click here to watch on a mobile device: http://bit.ly/1cHk8tj):