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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade: Talking Turkey with Lauer and Vieira

[IMG:L]With all the TV shows catching up to their last written and produced scripts before the Hollywood writers’ strike, live events may be the only new programming for a while. It might not sound too hip to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade when you could be playing Xbox live, watching CGI movies or downloading songs on iTunes, but there’s a reason it’s lasted over eight decades.

Today Show hosts Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira are hosting the 81st annual parade this year. It is Lauer‘s eighth and Vieira ‘s second. The veteran and the relative newcomer previewed the exciting reasons why this will be the hot ticket of the holiday weekend. It airs Thursday, November 22 from 9:00 a.m. to noon in all time zones.

Reason #1: There’s no stopping tradition, so just accept it.
“I remember watching it as a little kid and religiously,” said Vieira. “It’s part of New York and it’s part of what Thanksgiving is. It’s become part of it after 81 years. It still draws a huge audience. The Rockettes as well. Again, it is a part of New York history, from the building itself to the performers.”

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Reason #2: The whole family can watch it together, not like those animated movies with all those edgy double entendres.
“I have to say that my view of this parade changed 180 degrees when I had kids,” said Lauer. “I used to watch it in somewhat of a jaded fashion, that parade, because I had become more sophisticated in my taste. All of a sudden when I had kids, and I’d bring them down to Harold Square and I’d watch as I sat in the booth. [To] watch them reacting to what was coming into Harold Square in the form of the balloons and the floats and the broadway shows, you realize that it touches a place in them that I don’t think computer animation can compete with. There’s something very simple and basic about it.”

Reason #3: Experience some magic in this cynical, modern world.
“To me there’s certainly something magical about that parade,” said Vieira. “I grew up in Rhode Island and I was somebody who just dreamt. My eyes would get big when I would think of New York City around the holidays because of the decorations and the events. To have that opportunity to be part of this through television, for me a as a little kid was very exciting. I see it in little kids now, the same sort of things. There is a magic to it and it’s quintessential New York. I think that it resonates with people all over the country. I feel pride when Santa Claus appears at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. To Matt’s chagrin I think, last year when he looked over and I was ready to tear up.”

Reason #4: It won’t conflict with the writer’s strike. The only script is a list of floats.
“I want to be very clear,” said Lauer. “Because of this precise timing of things coming into Harold Square and being caught on camera, there is a large scripted element to it. If we’re asking that question, that’s what we have to figure out but I don’t believe it is. I will find out and get you a positive answer on that.”

Reason #5: The weather will be better this year.
“I gotta tell you, the weather last year was rotten,” said Vieira. “It was cold and rainy and Matt kept saying, ‘I’m so sorry this is your first one.’ Once we got out there, I forgot about all of that.” Laueradded, “I was bummed out last year because the weather was miserable. The difference in the experience when you don’t have to battle the elements, we’ve had some days where it’s been 55 degrees and bright sunshine. Boy, you can just sit around and enjoy it. When you’re battling the elements, it changes.”

Reason #6: It’s current and hip with High School Musical and Hannah Montana.
“It changes so fast,” said Lauer. “I don’t know if you have children but it’s extraordinary. There was a year where it was nothing but the Wiggles. A couple years ago, it was nothing but this group called High Five and they were in the parade. Now, just last weekend, my six-year-old and my four-year-old saw High School Musical for the first time. So they’re now into, although it’s amazing how early it starts with kids these days. My son and my daughter, they know Hannah Montana. They can pick her out of a lineup in two seconds. Each year, there is something else they are absolutely looking forward to, and then I’m always amazed at just how fast that changes and the next year they can’t even remember why they like that person. It’s fleeting.”

Reason #7: You’ll get to watch the old pros turn into giddy kids.
“I think it was intimidating up until the moment that the light went on and we were actually live,” said Vieira about her first parade broadcast last year. “Matt and I were standing there to open up the parade and then I just turned into a kid. Just the excitement and the enthusiasm took over and then it wasn’t intimidating at all. It was a bit mind boggling to be in the middle of it but it’s such a cool feeling. I just said, ‘I’m going along for this ride. I’m going to enjoy it all.’ I couldn’t quite believe that I’d went from nine to noon because it feels like half that, if even that. It goes so quickly and the precision in this parade, you hit it on the mark one float after another, one balloon after another. You’re so on top of whatever is happening at that moment that suddenly it’s done.”

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Reason #8: You might see a sports hero acting silly.
“I have to say, one of the things that I love every year is the kind of sports icons,” said Lauer. “Last year we had a lot of the New York Giants come by. We had some of the Yankees I think the year before that. In the midst of the pageantry and the Broadway shows and the animated characters like Goofy, I like it when you see grown men who have been there, done that, seen it all, riding down Broadway and acting like kids. I would bring as many of the kind of stodgy old adults into it as possible, a lot of these kind of cooler than the room sports stars and get them involved in the middle of it. It’s funny because by the time they get to Harold Square where we see them, they all seem to have been a little bit moved and changed by the experience.”

Reason #9: Get some good karma by observing the memory of a major tragedy.
“What I think is so great about this parade this year and what I would love to see on a regular basis, which they do, is they’re brining in the Virginia Tech Regimental Band with all the Highty Tighties,” said Vieira. “They’re performing in memory of those that were lost at the school and those are the moments that I think resonate with people because it’s all about life affirming. I think that that’s something that is very special about the parade and to have moments like those, to capture moments like those to me is what makes the parade so special.”

Reason #10: Should any major float-related accidents occur, the news team is now prepared to report them.
“We have someone that is kind of a representative of our division in the control room now,” said Lauer. “I don’t know if people know, we are not seeing monitors of what’s going on along the parade route other than what’s happening in Harold Square. So we’re reliant at that moment on the information we’re getting. We now have an understanding with the producers of the parade and there’s somebody from our division of the network in that control room so that if something happens, they get as much information, gather it as quickly as possible and get it to us as quickly as possible and we won’t ignore it.”

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