Sarah Palin as "Today Show" "co-host? Ha ha. Good one, NBC. You had me fooled and apparently you had everyone else fooled too. Palin was not even remotely a co-host or even guest host over two hours -- arguably she did brush up against the role for a minute when she stood next to Tori Spelling -- but she was a guest.
A guest who got a nice easy interview with Matt Lauer at the show's outset, in which she scored and reinforced so many of the platform positions she has espoused over the last few years; a guest who got to poke fun at herself buried under a pile of newspapers and cracking a joke about being mistaken for Tina Fey on the way to "30 Rock." A guest who got to sit next to a "Today" panel to talk about Oprah, Jessica Simpson's weight gain and Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs. (Said she: "Any of you have experience with people paid a lot of money to pretend they're you. . .?" ) And a guest who got to talk about raising teenage daughters, once again scoring points Mama Grizz has made so often before.
It was, in other words, a slam dunk for Palin: She was poised, relaxed (more or less) and confident. All that natural, to-the-camera-born ease came out; the political savvy remains very much intact. She'll get all the ink, and everyone, at least for the moment, will forget about Katie. She gets the free ride. Katie gets to wake up at 4 a.m. the rest of the week. Zzzzzing!
But a co-host? A co-host asks questions, debriefs guests, holds the python during the scary pets segment, laughs at Al Roker's jokes, and otherwise affects a studied objective nonchalance that suggests "big time TV journalist."
Palin is not that -- but she got TV's version of a spa treatment for two hours, and when the ratings come out (they already have -- the networks can read this stuff minute by minute) then everyone will see just how big a win this was for Palin. She and "Today" smoked Katie Couric on "Good Morning America." And so you see, revenge is indeed best served cold.
I suppose you can't blame the "Today Show" -- in a dogfight to hold onto its No. 1 position -- for the bait-and-switch -- except that you probably should. Palin -- love her or not -- remains a divisive figure in American politics, and to showcase her for two hours certainly puts "Today" at some risk with viewers who don't necessarily agree with her.
Of course, "Today" could respond that "GMA" is co-hosting Katie all week, and she's hardly an exemplar of Republican Party politics. Call this an attempt at political balance on the morning airwaves!
Call it anything you want, but it was still a sneaky shell game by the morning leader. It paid off for Palin. We'll see how well it ultimately pays off for "Today."