NEW YORK — And now, for something completely different: Jane Pauley and Maria Shriver co-hosting NBC's "Today" show, and Deborah Norville reading its news segments. This will occur Monday through Thursday.
The idea of this female trio--Shriver and Norville are subbing for vacationing Bryant Gumbel and John Palmer, respectively--is regarded in some quarters, other network quarters mainly, as a publicity ploy.
Not at all, says Marty Ryan, who took over as executive producer of "Today" from Steve Friedman when the latter left last month to become the East Coast chief of former NBC Chairman Grant Tinker's new production company.
Ryan said that he and Friedman had discussed the idea of the Pauley-Shriver-Norville troika early this year, and that the coming week--or four days thereof--seemed the right time to try that troika.
"It's just something to liven up the summer with," he said.
Norville is the rookie of the crew. She joined NBC in January as anchor of "NBC News at Sunrise," which she'll continue to anchor in addition to her "Today" tour.
Shriver, who will start co-anchoring NBC's new "Sunday Today" this fall, joined NBC in September after exiting the third-rated "CBS Morning News" that she had co-anchored with Forrest Sawyer. He is still there.
Pauley, who, like Norville, came to NBC News from NBC-owned WMAQ-TV in Chicago, has co-hosted "Today" since 1976.
Norville's 4-day stint as Palmer's substitute may provide much talk for those who consider it unusual to have three women appearing on a network news program in what cliche fans would call "high-visibility positions."
But the Pauley-Shriver match-up is not a first in the co-host department. The late Jessica Savitch previously co-hosted "Today" with Pauley for a week, according to a spokesman for the program.
And over at ABC, Barbara Walters has often co-hosted "Good Morning America," an ABC spokeswoman said.
Is it possible that someday there may be a network morning program hosted entirely by women?
"Oh, I suppose it's always possible," said producer Ryan of "Today." "But I think there's more interest in having a cast with a diverse background in every way, shape and form."