Meredith Vieira

Meredith Vieira On ‘The Today Show’: ‘It Turned So Nasty, Really Nasty’

Meredith Vieira is noted for being an “unusually open” human being. “There’s no way anybody could fake what she exudes,” says Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira’s Today Show cohost for nearly five years. “[Her] heart is almost visible as she walks towards you.”

That seems to be the collective opinion when it comes to Meredith Vieira. Looking both backward – as one of the original hosts of The View to Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and her time on the Today Show – and forward – as she steps up to a new daytime talk show of her own this fall on NBC – was the topic in a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter.

In the piece, a slew of television executives all stepped forward to praise the legendary Vieira.

Meredith – now 60 – said of returning to television:

“People desperately want to connect with other people. And when you’re on daytime, it’s a different thing. They see you as their friend or their mom or their grandmother. I missed that.”

Meredith Vieira served as number two to Barbara Walters for nine years on The View before leaving to co-host the Today Show with Matt Lauer. Her reported work ethic and genuineness have made her one of the most trusted personalities on television, and one of the most highly regarded personalities among those in the industry. If that weren’t enough, Meredith’s willingness to put her family ahead of her career have made her a bonafide woman’s icon.

When Vieira was asked if she was worried about returning to television this fall, she said:

“It’s hard, it’s competitive. I don’t know who’s even watching at 2 o’clock [p.m.]. They could be lying to me, but they’ve made it very clear that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to do. They backed off on a lot of things.”

The “they” Meredith is speaking about is NBC. Reportedly, Vieira was able to get NBC to concede to how she wanted to run her afternoon talk show because she represents a time when the Today Show was on top. NBC longs for those ratings, and is willing to bend.

That was all before the Ann Curry debacle.

When Meredith Vieira decided she’d had enough of the Today Show and it’s “brutal morning hours” in 2011, the executives at NBC were caught off guard. They had no replacement ready for Vieira, so when Meredith left the torch was handed over – clumsily at best – to Ann Curry. In 2012, Curry was shown the door, and the co-hosting duties went to Savannah Guthrie. The viewers felt sorry for Curry and blamed Lauer.

About the changing of the guard on the Today Show, Vieira says:

“That was such a bad time. I really felt for Matt a lot. And I felt for Ann, too. It turned so nasty, really nasty. Every day you’re reading this stuff that is just beyond cruel from angry, angry people who felt that Ann had been slighted and embarrassed and humiliated. And they basically pointed to one person on whom to take out all their anger. I don’t know if I would have survived that.”

Meredith Vieira says she never reached out to Matt Lauer during the turmoil. She just told him she “loved him,” but she didn’t provide any platitudes.

“I thought it had not been handled smartly from the very beginning, because I don’t think they ever felt that was the right fit for Ann, so they never should have put her in that position to begin with.”

Experts say that NBC sees Meredith Vieira as an opportunity to bring prestige and profits back to daytime television. Since Oprah has left, there’s a very big void that no one has stepped into. Dr. Phil is currently the daytime leader with an average of 4.1 million viewers each week, so there’s an opportunity for Vieira to make a big splash.

According to Variety, Meredith Vieira’s new daytime talk show will premiere September 8th on NBC.

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