Katie Couric Makes Triumphant Return to Today

By A.J. Katz 

The wait is over: After 10 long years, Katie Couric is back as co-anchor on Today. Well, at least for one week. Couric is filling the seat next to Matt Lauer for at least the next 5 days while Savannah Guthrie is on maternity leave. Couric co-anchored the program alongside Lauer and before that Bryant Gumbel from 1991-2006, before moving to CBS for a 5 year stint as anchor for the CBS Evening News.  As we wrote last month, Couric last appeared on Today in 2011 to a promote book, and was under consideration to fill in for Guthrie back in 2014 during her first maternity break. She’s finally back as fill-in co-anchor.

After Lauer opened by saying “Today is January 2, 1997,” Couric responded by saying, “This is flashback Monday, it really is. Hi, this is Katie Couric. Matt Lauer, I’m damn glad to meet you.” The two shook hands. “It’s really exciting. I‘m happy to see my friends here. to see everyone in TV land,” continued Couric. The producers briefly played the Twilight Zone theme in the background.

Lauer then delivered news about the gunman who killed 39 people at an Istanbul night club, with ISIS claiming responsibility. They threw it to NBC News’ Richard Engel reporting from Istanbul and had chatted with the sole American who was wounded in the club, but survived.

The incoming WH press secretary Sean Spicer joined the program remotely for a quick chat with Lauer, which was followed by a story about Mariah Carey’s New Year’s Eve performance malfunction and Al Roker checking in from Pasadena, CA to report on the upcoming Rose Bowl Parade and of course, the weather.

The program dug deeper into Couric’s return during the 8 a.m. hour., and the duo reported from the plaza with a crowd who was chanting “Katie, Katie.” The producers played a piece where Couric had pranked Lauer in the makeup/dressing room before the show, placing signed photos of herself around the room. “That actually was a joke getting back at Matt,” Couric explained after the piece was complete. “I gave a speech in Florida  once. I was at a hotel, and walked into my room and there were pictures of Matt everywhere he had signed. They were in the minibar. I went to the bathroom, lifted up the toilet seat, and went ‘I’m here too’.”

So why is Couric here this week? She explained: “Matt is celebrating his 20th anniversary as the Today co-anchor. Do you honestly wonder how that has happened?” Lauer’s response: “Time goes by so fast, but that’s a good thing because it has been so fun and so interesting and challenging, and it all started with you in 1997. I’m happy you’re here this week.”

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Couric read news about Pres. Obama’s return to Washington after his vacation in Hawaii, and how later in the week he will be meeting with House and Senate Democrats to figure out how they can preserve some of his signature accomplishments, including Obamacare, when the incoming administration comes in. Couric also announced that Obama will be giving his farewell address next week in Chicago.

Lauer brought up the passing of Proposition 64 in California, which will legalize recreational use of Marijuana in the state next year. A California prankster turned the famed Hollywood sign into “Hollyweed” in celebration of the new law. “I kind of liked it. I thought it was clever,” Couric said before laughing.

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Couric co-anchors the program with Lauer through Friday.

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