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"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.
Congratulations are certainly in order -- double congratulations, in fact. "Today" co-anchor Savannah Guthrie announced at the top of this morning's edition of "Today" that she married longtime boyfriend, Mark Feldman, in her hometown of Tuscon over the weekend.
Then . . . beat, beat . . . this announcement: That she's also four months pregnant, and the couple are expecting their first child later this summer.
Big news indeed for both Guthrie and "Today," and interesting as well. Guthrie and the show in fact took about 20 minutes before announcing the pregnancy, probably an indication among all hands on deck that this was at the very least a bit awkward.
"Today" has for decades carefully stage-managed the family planning affairs of anchors, particularly women ones: The pregnancies of Jane Pauley and Katie Couric were big news, at least in the pages of places like People. "Today" wrote the book, so to speak, on linking both the sense of family off the air, and family on the air.
Guthrie, who has been engaged since May, has rewritten the ol' manual, however. By announcing both pregnancy and marriage -- though not in that order -- she and the show avoid a potentially awkward and distracting discussion, just as "Today" appears in the early stages of a long-awaited turnaround: When is, umm, Savannah getting married? Call it the "Murphy Brown" question, if you care to call it anything. Certainly times have changed and many if not most "Today" viewers could care less what Guthrie does with her private life. But . . . because the morning shows insist that you care to some degree -- hey, it's family! -- many more conservative viewers would have taken considerable umbrage to an unwed mother story line.
No, it's not 1992, and no, Dan Quayle isn't running as vice president again on the Bush 1 ticket. Still, some things never change. This happens to be one of those things.
And with that . . . congrats to both Guthrie and Feldman.
Meanwhile, check out both big announcements.
Anyone paying attention a week ago knew that Al Roker said the new mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, knew nothing about weather (or snow days for schools), and the mayor got mad. It was one ridiculous tempest in a teapot. But we may get to relive it all again Monday when "Today" — working to keep that post-Olympics mojo on track — has Bill de Blasio on the show. No word weather . . . um, whether Al Roker will do the interview, but we kinda doubt it. Nevertheless, we will watch.