The Couric effect

Katie Couric says goodbye. And goodbye. And goodbye. And goodbye again.

Rebecca Traister
May 31, 2006 6:18PM (UTC)

Today is Katie Couric's last day on morning television, and I feel like we should make note of it on Broadsheet. It's hard to know where to start describing the Katie-till-you-puke spectacle that transpired on NBC this morning, so I'm just going to go for broke.

There were clip reels: of Katie's interviews, Katie's hairstyles and fashion choices narrated by Joan Rivers, Katie's trips around the world, Katie's health segments, Katie's bloopers, Katie's athletic endeavors, Katie's celebrity interviews, Katie's colonoscopy. Katie's parents were on Rockefeller Center Plaza, along with her sister, her daughters, her friends and fans holding signs reading things like "Katie4Eva!" Those acolytes who couldn't make it to New York sent videos expressing their devotion. One little girl proclaiming herself Katie's biggest fan was given a bespectacled Katie doll. Couric's former interview subjects spoke about their conversations with her, and a group of cancer survivors credited the newscaster with saving their lives by encouraging them to get screenings. There was a montage of Couric's late husband, Jay Monahan, and photos of her late sister, Emily, both of whom died of cancer. Couric gave a pretty good speech to Matt Lauer and Al Roker, expressing her feelings about leaving them. Lauer, Roker, Ann Curry and Natalie Morales all responded with on-air goodbyes with varying degrees of sincerity and success. (Curry telling Couric, "You made me love you," and promising to follow her wherever she goes, even when she moves to CBS and gets distracted and forgets about all the people she used to work with at NBC, probably took the prize for the most breath-stealing Live! Awkward! Make it stop! moment.) There were music clips (Think Billy Joel's "This Is the Time to Remember." And James Blunt's "You're Beautiful." Oh yes. Oh ... yes.) Kristin Chenoweth performed a song from "Wicked"; "Hairspray" composer Marc Shaiman wrote a song that was performed by Harvey Fierstein and the cast of "Jersey Boys," who also sang "Bye-bye Katie, Katie, goodbye" in the style of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Martina McBride asserted that because she knew "how important inspiring girls and women is to" Couric, she chose to serenade her with her song, "This One's for the Girls." Gene Shalit was there! Willard Scott was there (disguising his distaste for her poorly by crooning, "You may have been a headache/ But you never were a bore!")! The Scotto family was there! There were tributes from the crew, champagne toasts, a six-tier cake, a collage of photos and a final montage, and Poof! She was gone.


As Couric said herself, at 9:03, "It's just ... It's a lot of Katie, for three hours. I'm beginning to get embarrassed." And there was still an hour to go. When the sound of a helicopter was heard over the plaza and Lauer joked, "It's like the end of M.A.S.H.," he was making a good point.

But to cut through all the gooey butterfat for a second, did anyone else notice the number of ads for "The Devil Wears Prada" playing in commercial breaks? In practical terms, that just means that 20th Century Fox forked over a lot of dough to place them, but they worked as a rather poetic reminder of the ways in which Couric has sometimes been dealt with over her past 15 years of increasing power. She's been nailed for her "peremptory voice and clickety stiletto heels," as the "Queen of Mean," as a demanding, cheap, hard-driving diva -- essentially, as the "Devil Wears Prada" ball-busting caricature that gets applied to all powerful women at one time or another. Watching her sendoff, complete with pop ballads and a few too many awkward air kisses from Curry, it's important to remember that this is a woman who made history long before she surrendered her morning roost to become the first full-time female prime-time news anchor over at CBS. Couric kept a daily three-hour show in the No. 1 spot for a decade; she was a media titan who inspired bidding wars and gossip columns and cutting epithets. And she became the highest-paid journalist. Ever.

So while the woman clearly doesn't need any more goodbyes, like in her whole lifetime, Broadsheet says, "Cheers!" And to the folks at NBC? Well, you can all go to hell for getting that "Bye-bye, Katie, Katie, goodbye" song in my head. It's been an hour and I'm still humming it.

Rebecca Traister

Rebecca Traister writes for Salon. She is the author of "Big Girls Don't Cry: The Election that Changed Everything for American Women" (Free Press). Follow @rtraister on Twitter.

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