Update: What’s Next For “Meet”

In Saturday’s New York Times, Jacques Steinberg provides an update on his last “Meet the Press” host-replacement analysis.

He prominently highlights Chuck Todd and David Gregory as potential replacements (FishbowlDC guesses not Gregory) but…

    Mr. Gregory has struggled to get critical air time on “NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams” — in part, some colleagues say, because he can be as combative off camera as he can be at a White House press briefing.

As I noted before about Gregory…

    He’s the Pete Sampras of television…good at everything but you just can’t bring yourself to truly adore the guy.

Steinberg also says that Gwen Ifill has been approached about the job, Andrea Mitchell could play a supporting role and Chris Matthews is a dark horse. Oh, and some folks long for Katie Couric (I don’t see that happening) or Ted Koppel (ditto).

A decision is expected between Election Day and the end of the year.

Will the ensemble/rotating cast of hosts prevail?

Back in June, I speculated about some potential “Meet” hosts and I think that a lot of the analysis holds up. I’ll re-paste some of the top contenders after the jump…


PROS: She and Russert were big fans of each other and she’s an institution at NBC. She has the pedigree and resume for the gig and still some top sources around town.

CONS: Although Mitchell would allow NBC to check off “female host” from its diversity chart, she’s also 62 and “Meet” may want to build its post-Russert phase around a younger face. Having “sources around town” doesn’t really matter on “Meet” (the guests break the news, not the host). When she’s guest hosted “Meet,” we’ve been underwhelmed (she’s not a natural at bringing the claws out on air). Her marriage to Alan Greenspan and her prowess on D.C.’s cocktail circuit makes her feel a bit too “part of the system” (She’s McCain to, say, Chuck Todd’s Obama in this race).


PROS: Like Russert, she’s smart, self-assured and tough. In other words, she’d be very good at the actual job. Like Russert, she’s well-liked and isn’t as drawn to the Georgetown cocktail scene. And then there’s that whole black female thing, which could prove especially symbolic in an election year that so excited Tim thanks, in part, to formidable black and female candidates.

CONS: ls “Meet” confident enough in its ratings empire to install its first female host (see: CBS, Couric)? What kind of damage will NBC create internally by going outside the network to replace Russert? Does Ifill want to move from the low expectations game (read: PBS’ NewsHour) to what will be one of the most scrutinized transitions in recent television history?


PROS: He’s got the claws. He wants the gig. He’s put in his time at NBC. He’s a household name.

CONS: Unfortunately for Matthews, there are too many to count for this job. He’s got the tough guy ‘tood, but it has almost become a parody of itself. He’s been stigmatized lately as a liberal. NBC won’t want to take Matthews off his popular “Chris Matthews Show.” There’s already rumors of MSNBC wanting to cut ship with Matthews (and Matthews may have his own plans). He’s got a loose tongue. Although he’s got an incredible command of movie trivia and political history, can he focus on the here and know of news and politics? Will he do his homework? Matthews’ intellect allows him to essentially wing “Hardball” if he wants. For “Meet,” Matthews would need to be more focused, more disciplined and less enamored with himself.


PROS: Todd’s got a bit of Russert’s universal appeal — and some of Russert’s adorable nerdiness, too –despite not yet being a household name. Most Washingtonians (and reporters, especially) have a favorable view of him and almost everyone tips their hat to Todd’s outside-of-the-box political analysis and quick ascension at NBC. He’s enough of a young, fresh face that “Meet” could/would-be-smart-to launch a 20 year franchise around the guy, and with Russert having hand-picked Todd to join the NBC team, there’s a bit of an “anointed one” mystique to Todd. Picking Todd might also help blunt the “Why Didn’t They Pick Me?!?” anger of shunned NBC colleagues Matthews, Gregory, Brokaw, Scarborough, Olbermann, etc. by signaling that, Hey guys, it’s not you … it’s us: We’ve decided to go in an entirely different direction.

CONS: He’s the “Little Miss Sunshine” of this scorecard: He ought to get the Oscar, but you know he won’t (damn you, Departed). TV news is not known for taking such bold chances on the new guy. Todd’s primary skill set on television thus far has focused on the micro-political and its not clear he can (or want to) do what Russert did: Speak to the issues of ordinary Americans (political junkies love him because he seems to speak to us). We’ve yet to see any of Russert’s Tough Guy-ness from Todd, which brings us to perhaps Todd’s biggest weakness: TV position jockeying isn’t for nice guys


PROS: One of the “safer” choices. He’s hosted it before. He’s not wedded to another NBC/MSNBC show. Perhaps more than anyone else, Gregory’s got that Russert-like inquisitive demeanor. His chances of getting the gig are high when you consider that his main NBC/MSNBC competitors for the job either have no realistic shot (Matthews/Olbermann/Scarborough) or are too old to build a franchise around (Brokaw).

CONS: He’s the Pete Sampras of television…good at everything but you just can’t bring yourself to truly adore the guy (Go Agassi!). That tough guy/inquisitor demeanor can look disingenuous when you then see how Gregory chameleons into whatever show he’s on (“Today”: Dancing / “Race for the White House”: Hyper, cheesy). If Russert was the Boy from Buffalo, then Gregory is the Dude Who Always Dreamed About Making It In D.C. And, besides: Who wants to replace Rockstar Russert with a “safe choice”? (Although, being a safe choice has always worked out for the Goo Goo Dolls.)