It’s been a while since I’ve read a good saucy showbiz tale with a kind of villain (Today host Matt Lauer) at the center of it plus two or three Shylocks and a victim (former co-host Ann Curry) and lots of robust acidic flavor. This describes Joe Hagan’s story about Curry’s removal and how Lauer…okay, how he didn’t exactly orchestrate it but how he sure as shit nudged it along and certainly did nothing to stop it or save Curry.
Best passage: “If Lauer is guilty in the hosticide of Ann Curry (he’s certainly not innocent), he’s far from the only guilty party. For all the smiles, TV hosts often get offed for all sorts of reasons. As Hyman Roth said in Godfather 2: This is the business they’ve chosen.”
Second best passage: “Blamed in the press for his co-host’s offing, Lauer has watched helplessly as his reputation gets battered week after week. When Chelsea Handler joked to him on Today earlier this month, ‘You have a worse reputation than I do,’ Lauer’s smile sharpened into something that wouldn’t make it past airport security.”
Early passage: “If Matt Lauer doesn’t want to be seen with sharp knives, it’s because last summer his co-host Ann Curry was discovered with one in her back. She was swiftly replaced by a younger, more genial woman, Savannah Guthrie. Ever since, Lauer has been the prime suspect in Curry’s virtual demise.
“Five million viewers, the majority of them women, would not soon forget how Curry, the intrepid female correspondent and emotionally vivid anchor, spent her last appearance on the Today show couch openly weeping, devastated at having to leave after only a year. The image of Matt Lauer trying to comfort her—and of Curry turning away from his attempted kiss—has become a kind of monument to the real Matt Lauer, forensic evidence of his guilt.
“The truest truism of morning-TV shows is that they are like families, or aspire to be—it’s a matter of practiced artifice, faked from the first minute to the last. But reality can’t always be kept out of the picture.
“On Curry’s final day, Lauer realized the scene was catastrophic even as cameras rolled. ‘I think we all knew it at that moment,’ says Lauer during an interview with his current co-hosts, Al Roker, Natalie Morales, and Guthrie. ‘And it just seemed like something…there was nothing we could do as it was happening, and we all felt bad about it.’
“What followed was the implosion of the most profitable franchise in network television. After sixteen years as the No. 1 morning show in America, Today was worth nearly half a billion dollars a year in advertising revenue to NBC, the bedrock of its business. In the aftermath of the Curry debacle, the show lost half a million viewers and ceded first place in the ratings war to ABC’s Good Morning America, losing millions of dollars overnight.”
Hagan is a solid, exacting reporter and an excellent prosemeister.