A time-honored network upfronts tradition is when a late night star comes out to roast his network, and Seth Meyers didn’t disappoint. Meyers opened his portion of NBC’s upfront presentation on Monday morning with a Matt Lauer quip that both surprised and delighted the audience of advertisers.
“It’s not surprising for NBC to be dramatic, we are home to the number one drama on television,” Meyers said. “A show that each week gives us twists and turns, heartbreaking reveals, and this season the departure of a once beloved character. I’m talking of course of, ‘This Is the Today Show.'”
He added: “Hoda Kotb replaced Matt Lauer as co-anchor of the ‘Today Show’ this year and she has been incredible. Everyone here at NBC is so proud of Hoda. Although, I’m not sure Kathy Lee is happy about it. I saw her drinking at 10 a.m.”
Later, Meyers also had a quip about one-time NBC star, and now disgraced predator Bill Cosby. He quipped that, given the reboot-crazed state of network TV, at least one NBC exec asked, “We can’t bring back ‘The Cosby Show,’ right? No, of course not. I’m just saying… but of course not!” He also quipped that NBC planned to revive “ALF” — but with a “Roseanne”-like twist. “This time he’s a climate change denier!”
Meyers hasn’t been shy about criticizing Lauer after revelations of sexual misconduct by the former “Today” anchor, including devoting one of his “A Closer Look” segments in December to the scandal.
Meyers’ jokes likely made a few NBC News execs and stars at the upfronts squirm, as they were also in force at the Radio City Music Hall event, touting the division’s successes and likely trying to counterbalance a recent spate of critical reports. In particular, the network has been criticized for an internal investigation into the Lauer allegations that was seen as being too soft on the division. (For example, former co-anchor Ann Curry was said to have not been interviewed as part of the process.)
Add to that recent scandals involving MSNBC hosts Hugh Hewitt and Joy Reid, as well as former “NBC Nightly News” anchor Tom Brokaw, and how NBC News handled those issues. Then there’s ongoing concerns about the rich deal for Megyn Kelly, which has not yet resulted in ratings growth. The Washington Post recently wrote that “something is wrong at NBC, and by the traditional standard that the person at the top sets the tone and bears ultimate responsibility, it’s hard to absolve NBC Chairman Andy Lack.”
At Monday’s upfront, however, it was left to NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt to deliver a positive message: “No one else has the same scope and breadth of talent as our organization does, and we have the most recognizable faces representing some of the most trusted brands in news,” he said. “Journalism is at the heart of what we do. Facts do matter, and trust is earned.”