Ann Curry bids a tearful goodbye to 'Today'


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Ann Curry bid a tearful farewell to her role at NBC's "Today" Thursday morning, capping a week of speculation that she would be dumped from the morning show just a year into her tenure as co-anchor.

"I never expected to leave this couch after 15 years, but I am so grateful, especially to all of you who watch," Ms. Curry said, choking back tears. "Matt and I and everyone who sits on this couch, we often call ourselves a family. But you are the real 'Today' show family. ... For all of you who saw me as a groundbreaker, I'm sorry I couldn't carry the ball over the finish line, but, man, I did try."

Ratings for "Today" have fallen in the past year with ABC's "Good Morning America" besting "Today" on occasion. Ms. Curry negotiated an exit that will make her a roving NBC international reporter in charge of a team of correspondents. She'll report for "Today," "NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams," "Dateline," "Rock Center" and MSNBC and will anchor NBC News prime-time specials.

This new role may be better suited to her skill set. I quit watching "Today" years ago, before Ms. Curry ascended to co-anchor, but I was always put off by the way she'd interrupt the people she interviewed when she sat in for Katie Couric and Meredith Vieira during her years as the show's newsreader. Still, it was difficult not to feel sorry for her in the past week, given the chatter about her impending departure, particularly reports that co-anchor Matt Lauer pushed for a change due to a lack of chemistry between the two.

"I don't know who has been behind the leaks, but no question they've hurt deeply," Ms. Curry said in an interview with USA Today, acknowledging there are always "kinks to be worked out" in a new partnership. She said she felt she was not given enough time to work out those kinks.

On "Today," Mr. Lauer complimented Ms. Curry's reporting from far-flung locales.

"You have the biggest heart in the business," Mr. Lauer said. "You put it on display every single day in this studio. ... The way you care about people comes through you in every single story you report. ... Most importantly, you've made us better, and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts."

NBC News executives have not yet announced a replacement for Ms. Curry, although there has been speculation that "Today" regulars Savannah Guthrie and Natalie Morales are in the running for the co-anchor job.

Media misfire on Court decision

Ms. Curry's "Today" show farewell Thursday was quickly eclipsed by the Supreme Court ruling on President Obama's health care plan and media misfires on exactly what that judicial opinion contained.

A banner on Fox News trumpeted "Supreme Court Finds Health Care Individual Mandate Unconstitutional," and CNN, Huffington Post, NPR and Time sent out similar messages over social media sites.

"Wow, that's a dramatic moment," said CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer. "If in fact the Supreme Court has ruled the individual mandate is in fact unconstitutional, that would be history unfolding right now. ... This is just the initial headline we're getting from inside the Supreme Court."

Any attempts to thread the needle between the headline and substance of the ruling got lost once declarative graphics came up on screen and anchor bloviating began.

"What a setback this would be for the president, for the Democrats, those who supported this health care law if they rule that the individual mandate is in fact unconstitutional," Mr. Blitzer continued. "Then it raises questions about any of this health care reform law."

For anyone following coverage of the high court's ruling on Twitter and other social media sites, it quickly became clear that these early reports were wrong, as others reported the opposite. It took about eight minutes for CNN to pivot from "struck down" to "has been upheld." Comparisons to the "Dewey Defeats Truman!" incorrect headline from the Chicago Tribune in 1948 followed.

'Episodes' even funnier

The September-to-May TV season may seem crowded with new programming premieres, but summer has grown to be almost as popular with the proliferation of cable networks.

Last weekend, HBO premiered "The Newsroom" on Sunday night. This weekend, Showtime brings back "Episodes" and "Weeds." In a few weeks, AMC adds another season of "Breaking Bad" to the Sunday night lineup the same night (July 15) USA Network debuts the new series "Political Animals."

In a vibrant TV landscape, there's rarely a dull moment. The same can be said for the Showtime comedy "Episodes" (10:30 p.m. Sunday), which may not always be hilarious but frequently is amusing.

Matt LeBlanc returns as a charming if dim and oversexed version of himself. In the fictional construct of "Episodes," Mr. LeBlanc stars in a new sitcom "Pucks," which is based on an acclaimed British series "Lyman's Boys" that's been dumbed down for American audiences by its creators, the husband-and-wife team of Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig).

At the end of season one, Matt slept with Beverly; Sean remains rather cross about this turn of events as season two begins four months later.

Through the first five episodes of season two, "Episodes" comes off as generally funnier than in season one, and Mr. LeBlanc is, interestingly, more self-assured playing a fictional version of himself.

"Episodes" also benefits from stronger character development and new relationships. With Beverly and Sean on the outs, Beverly has developed a friendship with network executive Carol (Kathleen Rose Perkins); the state of the marriage between network boss Merc Lapidus (Stuart Pankow) and his blind wife, Jamie (Genevieve O'Reilly), also becomes an integral plot point as the "Episodes" world expands in season two. Beverly and Sean also get an assistant reminiscent of April Ludgate (Aubrey Plaza) from "Parks and Recreation," only lazier and incompetent.

Much of the show's humor continues to derive from the idiocy of the TV business, including the social graces involved in extending condolences for the death of a network executive's father (hint: the bigger the sympathy gift, the better).

But the show's true scene stealer remains junior network executive Myra Licht (Daisy Haggard), who wears a near-constant expression of revulsion. She doesn't get many lines, but her perpetual grimace is comedy gold.

Whacking 'Weeds'

Showtime's long-running pot dealer comedy "Weeds" also returns Sunday (10 p.m.) and picks up where last year's season finale left off -- with a gunshot. No spoiling the shooting victim (or shooter) here, but suffice it to say the chickens seem to be coming home to roost.

Listening to two characters speculate on who could have been the shooter offers a reminder of just how terrible some of the "Weeds" characters have behaved, none worse than pot-selling mom Nancy Botwin (Mary-Louise Parker).

There's been reason to be negative about some of the "Weeds" seasons because the show just sort of ran off the rails into crazyland after leaving suburban Agrestic several years back. But the opening credits restore the show's original Malvina Reynolds-sung "Little Boxes" theme song over new animation tracing the characters' crazy path. Maybe in this final season the show will go home again?

Only two episodes were made available for review -- I watched 11/2 before Showtime's player for TV critics ground to a halt as it often does -- and they included commentary on health care in America (timely!), the introduction of some new nosy neighbors and a possible personality change for a major character.

PCN launches sub service

Nonprofit, noncommercial Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) will make its original programming available online for a subscription fee next month. Beginning Thursday, PCN Select ($24.99 for one year) will offer the network's original productions anytime, anywhere. Sign up at pcntv.com; payments will be accepted only through PayPal.

Public affairs programming will remain free at pcntv.com.

Fireworks! Music!

WPXI will again televise the "EQT Flashes of Freedom Fireworks Fantasia" at 9 p.m. Wednesday. News anchors David Johnson and Jennifer Abney will host the telecast, which repeats at 11:30 p.m. Wednesday on PCNC.

PBS will air "A Capitol Fourth" (8-9:30 p.m. Wednesday, WQED-TV) live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol With host Tom Bergeron ("Dancing with the Stars") and guests Phillip Phillips ("American Idol"), Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara ("Nice Work If You Can Get It"), Carnegie Mellon University grad Megan Hilty ("Smash") and Javier Colon ("The Voice").

Channel surfing

HBO's pilot of "The Newsroom" is now available to non-HBO subscribers at HBO.com, YouTube, TV.com and some distributors' on demand platforms through July 23. The show debuted Sunday with 2.1 million viewers, putting it ahead of "Luck," which was renewed before it was canceled, and a bit behind the series premiere of "Game of Thrones." ... A&E has renewed "Duck Dynasty" for a second season to air late this year. ... Paige Davis ("Trading Spaces") and Mark Steines ("Entertainment Tonight") will host "Home & Family," a new Hallmark Channel daily lifestyle series that debuts Oct. 1. ... Ion will add a wrestling show, "WWE Main Event," Wednesdays at 8 p.m. beginning Oct. 3. ... Comedy Central will roast Roseanne Barr at 10 p.m. Aug. 12. ... ABC has renewed summer series "Rookie Blue" for a fourth season. ... On Sept. 10 ABC will move "General Hospital" to a new time slot: 2 p.m. weekdays. ... Kristin Chenoweth, late of ABC's canceled "GCB," will join CBS's "The Good Wife" this fall in a recurring role as a political reporter investigating the Florrick campaign and marriage. Nathan Lane also will join "Good Wife" in the fall as a manager imposed by a bank to cut costs at Lockhart & Gardner. ... Comcast Xfinity TV customers can now watch Disney Channel, Disney XD and Disney Junior through an authenticated login via iPhone/iPad apps and online at WATCHDisneyChannel.com (and WATCHDisneyXD.com or WATCHDisneyJunior.com).

Tuned In online

Today's TV Q&A column responds to questions about "Dr. Who," "Rizzoli & Isles" and DVR storage capacity. This week's Tuned In Journal includes posts on "Anger Management," "Gravity Falls," "Louie," "Awkward," "Twenty Twelve" and "Chasing UFOs." Read online-only TV content at post-gazette.com/tv.

This week's podcast includes conversation about HBO's "The Newsroom," USA's "Royal Pains" and Ann Curry's planned exit from "Today." Subscribe or listen at post-gazette.com/podcast.

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TV writer Rob Owen: rowen@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2582. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook for breaking TV news.


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