Sarah Palin on ‘Today’: How did she do?
BY LORI RACKL TV Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org April 3, 2012 11:20AM
Updated: May 5, 2012 8:09AM
Sarah Palin joined the ranks of the “lamestream media” Tuesday on the “Today” show with a guest co-hosting gig that had her mostly answering questions, not asking them.
Palin’s role was more guest than host during the 8 a.m. hour of the top-rated morning show, and in that respect, she didn’t disappoint.
The former Alaska governor and GOP veep nominee got things off to a jovial start when the cameras introduced her amidst a pile of newspapers — a reference to that infamous Katie Couric interview four years ago when Palin couldn’t name a single paper she regularly read.
Palin laughed about someone mistaking her for Tina Fey as she made her way to NBC’s studios at 30 Rock, where she borrowed “Today” host Matt Lauer’s dressing room — and the balding Lauer’s hair products, she joked.
Palin’s turn as co-host was a strategic move by “Today” to hold onto its long-standing title as television’s most-watched morning show. ABC’s “Good Morning America” has been chipping away at the ratings gap, which separates the two programs by a mere 137,000 viewers, according to the most recent Nielsen report. “GMA” averages 4.84 million viewers compared to “Today’s” 4.98 million.
“GMA” is hoping to break its rival’s winning streak this week by nabbing none other than former “Today” host Katie Couric to fill in for a vacationing Robin Roberts.
While Palin was occupying Couric’s old seat, the only reference Couric made to her former employer came in a “GMA” video that showed the veteran journalist visiting Madame Tussauds wax museum. Couric went up to a lifelike statue of “Today” host Al Roker and asked, “How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?”
NBC promised Palin would “reveal a different side” as co-host, but viewers got the classic I’m-just-like-you Palin, who talked in sound bites about the importance of a strong work ethic, the challenges of raising kids and her appetite for caribou and moose.
Palin, a Fox News contributor and onetime local sportscaster, spent the 8 a.m. hour loosely participating in a variety of segments alongside “Today” host Ann Curry and company. The segment about advice on raising teenage daughters could have been a lot shorter if Palin just said what she was thinking: Keep them away from Levi Johnston.
Palin joined the show’s “professionals” panel alongside Star Jones, Donny Deutsch and Nancy Snyderman to weigh in on topics ranging from Oprah’s struggling cable channel to Jessica Simpson’s pregnancy weight gain.
If someone had criticized Palin for piling on the pounds during pregnancy, “I would have wanted to punch them in the neck,” Mama Grizzly said.
As for a Facebook feature that allows users to list their enemies, Palin said she’s not a fan of something that’s all about tearing people down.
“Maybe they’re learning from the politicians,” Deutsch chimed in. Palin took the swipe in stride.
When the conversation moved to actors portraying real people, Palin said she thinks Tina Fey does a good job as her doppelganger. As for Julianne Moore in HBO’s controversial movie “Game Change,” Palin said she hasn’t wasted her time seeing it. Too bad they didn’t have a lie detector on set.
Palin played along with the fluff segments, too, like one featuring actress and party planner Tori Spelling. Palin asked if Spelling’s pigs in a blanket contained moose or caribou.
When Wilson Phillips sang “California Dreamin’,” Lauer fessed up to misunderstanding the lyrics, thinking the words were “began to pray” instead of “pretend to pray.”
“Either way, you’re prayin’, and that’s good,” said Palin, who shook her hips during the performance.
Curry had to rein in a chatty Palin more than once to cut to commercials. But in general, Palin knew how to play the game and came off suitably personable, escaping without any major gaffes.
One thing she did not do was use her time on national television to stump for GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney.
“Anybody but Obama,” Palin repeatedly said during a one-on-one interview with Lauer. She noted that a shakeup within the Republican ranks was still possible and urged her party not to “play it safe.”