Today Show alum Couric took up the post as substitute co-host on rival morning show Good Morning America for the week of April 2, but it wasn’t long before NBC’s rival morning show, Today, took the opportunity to go rogue with Governor Sarah Palin as its guest host. Back in 2008, the two duked it out in a heated interview and that time, Couric skewered Palin like a leg of moose meat on a frontier fire, but with concurrent shots at guest morning show host glory, suddenly, we have another battle on our hands. (Even if ABC or NBC weren’t prepared to acknowledge it.) But the most important question isn’t whether or not Palin was using this as a platform to boost her party’s politics, or to somehow declare her own last-minute candidacy for the GOP ticket, but rather: who won this thing?
And let’s just say in one corner, we have a seasoned media pro, and in the other, a jubilant kid on a tricycle…you do the math.
SP: The former governor didn’t so much open with remarks, as much as she pretended to read the newspaper like a wacky undercover cartoon cop making a haphazard attempt at playing it cool while his pink feline foe makes off with a priceless painting. She held the pages like a kid discovering the Chili’s dinner menu for the first time. Then there was that whole “People still think I’m Tina Fey!” joke. Sure it was cute, but it was also a reminder to NBC: hey, you “lame stream media folks” made money offa makin’ fun of me, be nice now!
KC: She’s already had a day to get used to being back in the saddle of morning TV, so she took the job like a newsy fish to water, paling around with George Stephanopoulos like they’ve been hosting together for the 15 years she spent with Matt Lauer on Today. I wonder if Lauer felt the sting over at Rockefeller Center? Of course, there is one downside to all this normalcy: it’s boring.
Winner: Sarah Palin, but only because I’m pretty sure one of those newspapers was upside down.
Talking to Other People Like a Human
SP: Palin didn’t get to dive right into her hosting gig. First she had to stand up against the tribunal… of totally reasonable questions from Matt Lauer about her claims against President Obama and her opinion on Mitt Romney. Sure, her answers sounded like rehearsed lines from a children’s community theater production of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with her usual Palinisms thrown in, but we’ve got to give her credit for having the guts to poke fun at “the lame stream media” right to Lauer’s face. Palin didn’t really get to try her hand at interviewing others, but rather, standing by like a kid on Career Shadow Day, interjecting whenever Lauer or Anne Curry gave her the go-ahead.
KC: Once again, Couric is a shining beacon of morning show pizzazz. She speaks like someone who understands the flow of conversation, she can banter, and she can reign in the funny business long enough to interview a man about a school shooting before hopping back over to talk about her night out with the GMA cast. Granted, Palin didn’t have the chance to interview anyone about serious news stories, unless you count her quips to Donny Deutch about Jessica Simpson’s baby weight.
Winner: Katie Couric, because humans don’t respond well to rehearsed answers.
Bad Girl Cred
KC: She gets fake-arrested with the GMA crew on their “wild” night out in Times Square and poses as provocatively as America can handle with the wax figures of Matt Lauer and Al Roker. Man, that’ll teach those Today show folks, right? Or… that was about as tame as a middle school slumber party pixie stick-chugging challenge.
SP: She defended Jessica Simpson’s baby weight. (Which is apparently a crime whose punishment is having to listen to Donny Deutch attempt to make a valid point about women and pregnancy, or as he likes to call it: babies and stuff.)
Winner: Tie, they’re both lame ducks this time.
SP: She once worked as a sports anchor at a local Alaska news station. But it’s a widely-known fact that this does not prepare you to discuss mini grilled cheese sandwiches with Tori Spelling.
KC: She has 15 years of hosting the Today Show under her belt, she anchored the CBS nightly news, and now she’s an all-around newswoman superstar. Maybe we should have skipped this category, it’s meaner than pitting a door mouse against a python.
Winner: Katie. (How’d you think this one was going to go down?)
SP: Palin had two shots at this whole girl talk thing, and she was in over her head on both of them. To be fair, how was she supposed to bond with Tori Spelling over her homemade wine-bottle tags and tomato soup shots? This woman wears hats with pink rhinestone rifles on them. Still, all Palin had to do was chat with Spelling about “babies and stuff,” but she couldn’t resist pulling passive aggressive girl-talk no-no numero uno: the “my, isn’t is just wonderful how you have so much time to do all this silly party planning stuff” card. Is she Mama Bear or Regina George?
KC: Couric continued doing her hosting duty by interviewing former Real Housewife and former Mrs. Kelsey Grammer, Camille Grammer about her kids, her ex, and the catty Bravo series. It was about as normal as a bowl of cheerios, but I’d bet a whole pound of reindeer sausage that Palin wouldn’t have fared any better.
Winner: Katie. She may have been dreadfully normal, but she didn’t go (potentially accidental) mean girl on the guests.
SP: Couldn’t tell the difference between moose meat and hot dogs.
KC: Named an award winning breakfast sandwich chef by Emeril Lagasse.
Winner: Katie. But then again, I’d side with anyone who puts maple syrup on bacon.
Morning Show Style
SP: While I have little room to speak because my early morning style consists of a Kermit the Frog tshirt and Target sweatpants, Palin dropped the ball here. An all black pant suit? With a red Muppet-y scarf thrown over it? And what was with that giant trucker belt buckle? Palin made Anne Curry look like a fashionista this morning, and that’s like saying the fourth hour of the Today Show contains important news.
KC: Damn, girl. Demure little black dress: check. Pop of glam at the neck: check. Killer silver heels (and legs for days): check. Couric was rocking the type of outfit you wear to make your ex-boyfriend jealous, and Today’s new gal was running around in a pant suit. This is almost too easy.
Winner: Katie, because damn, girl.
SP: She’s an interview phantom, appearing silently beside Tori Spelling seconds after Anne finished the actual interview portion and standing awkwardly until Anne asked her to speak. You’ve got expect that kind of stealth from a huntress like Palin. But her real special skill might be overriding the producers, or going rogue if you will. Oh the segment’s over you say? Well, not for this former “CEO of Alaska.” Palin repeatedly ignored the prompts to end each segment to the point I though Anne Curry might come back with a cane and pull her off like a vaudeville performer getting an onstage tomato bath.
KC: French! She speaks French and knows that “La Vie En Rose” was originally by Edith Piaf and not Louis Armstrong. Magnifique!
Winner: Palin. Defying producers takes some serious guts, plus watching her ramble on too long doesn’t make me feel nearly as unaccomplished as Katie’s flawless French does.
Katie: 5 1/2 points
Sarah: 2 1/2 points
Battle Winner: Katie!
What do you say, ladies? Round three? Maybe next time you can battle Legends of the Hidden Temple style.