Well, here’s something we didn’t see coming.
Legendary morning television personality Kathie Lee Gifford is leaving the 10 a.m. hour of the Today show in April. Gifford made the announcement on the program this morning.
“It’s bittersweet—as these things always are—but I’ve been here almost 11 years; thought I would stay one year, but along the way fell in love with a beautiful Egyptian goddess,” Gifford told the audience. “But now when it’s our 11th anniversary, I’m going to be leaving the Today show.”
Gifford added: “It’s an exciting time for me and I’m thrilled about all the projects that are coming up … I’ve worked in the business 120 years and I’ve never worked with a more beautiful group of people who just give, give, give everyday four hours of live television five days a week … ”
TVNewser attended the 10-year anniversary celebration of Kathie Lee & Hoda back in April. In her remarks, Gifford thanked former Today show producer (and current Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon producer) Jim Bell, saying she almost didn’t want to come back to morning television after her 15 years with Regis Philbin (1985-2000), but that Bell eventually convinced her that she wasn’t ready to retire from TV.
Per Bell’s request, Gifford watched the first few episodes of the Fourth Hour, then co-hosted by Ann Curry, Natalie Morales and Hoda Kotb, and originally wasn’t a fan of the program.
“I told him: If I’m going to come back, produce to my skills. I want to bring my love for theater to television, because television can be used in such a powerful way, and it’s our choice how we really use it,” said Gifford. “Choose life, bring joy to someone, make someone laugh.”
The morning show veteran also explained that before they teamed up, she told Kotb that they could have a really good show, “but I don’t think we can have a hit show, not at 10 o’clock in the morning; it’s never been done.”
Here’s a memo from NBC News president Noah Oppenheim:
It is with mixed emotions that I share the news Kathie Lee Gifford has decided it’s time to leave TODAY.
As we all know, Kathie Lee’s plate has been overflowing lately with film, music and book projects, and after giving us eleven extraordinary years, she’s decided to focus her attention full-time on those other creative endeavors.
When we first launched this incredible hour, no one could have predicted the lightning (or rather, wine) in a bottle that is Hoda & Kathie Lee. Whether in studio or on one of their many road trips, they have delighted our audience with their distinct brand of fun, friendship and adventure. During that time, Kathie Lee has cemented her status as one of the most enduring and endearing talents in morning television. In short – she is a legend.
Jimmy Fallon summed it up best when he channelled Kenny Rogers on the tenth anniversary show earlier this year: Through the years, Kathie Lee has never let us down, she’s turned our lives around and she’s brought some of the sweetest days we’ve found …
As Kathie Lee told me today: “In 2008, I joined the TODAY Show family intending to spend one year. But something unexpected happened along the way: I fell in love with a beautiful, talented, extraordinary Egyptian goddess named Hoda, and an amazing group of individuals who work tirelessly and joyfully at their jobs, many of them starting at midnight, creating an unprecedented four hours of live television. I stayed year after year making a million memories with people I will never forget. I leave TODAY with a grateful heart but I’m truly excited for this new creative season in my life. Many thanks to all the wonderful people who made the years fly by.”
Kathie Lee is generously staying with us through the show’s next anniversary, April 7, 2019. We will have much more to share before then about our plans for that hour, which will, of course, continue to include Hoda.
Please join me in congratulating Kathie Lee on a dazzling run at TODAY. We look forward to celebrating her in the months to come.