Meredith Vieira: Today show crew "a great, dysfunctional family"
Despite hours spent plugging the Big Game today and during a special, two-hour Today show Sunday from the Buccaneer Cove in Raymond James Stadium, she's doesn't have a ticket to the game.
She's going to watch it in her hotel room on TV.
"Nobody cares about my sports analysis, anyway . . . it's much more important for me to see the commercials," she cracked, noting that it's her first trip to the Super Bowl. "I'm sending my son and his friends . . . He wants to be a sportscaster and he's ready."
Today's broadcast proved a challenge for the show, which braved unexpected cold and a driving rain to present segments from several platforms inside the NFL Experience. But the tent roofs weren't enough to stop this rain, which blew in from the sides, drenching equipment, crew and anchors alike.
Despite a few obvious hiccups on air -- Vieira closed one segment by announcing that viewers would go back to "Matt and Al," forgetting for a moment that charismatic weatherguy Al Roker was standing next to her -- the newest addition to TV's First Family seemed in her element.
"I think we've grown as a team together . . . it's the melding of an ensemble," said Vieira, rushing from a segment sampling all kinds of finger foods fans can whip up for the game, to a brief touch football contest with Roker, NBC analyst Tiki Barber and Access Hollywood host Maria Menounos. "There's much more power in the collective, and we've become a family . . . a great, dysfunctional family, but a family."
In two hours, the show welcomed a host of notables, from sports anchor Bob Costas to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. The Super Bowl trophy, named for NFL legend Vince Lombardi, was set on a rain-soaked anchor desk early on, a stage manager dabbing at the $22,000 silver sculpture with towels and special gloves.
At the heart of the action, Roker and Vieira keep up their spirits with a relentless barrage of jokes and jibes, leading a crowd of volunteers through a rendition of Singing in the Rain, kidding one fan for bringing a sign reading "Where in the world is Matt Lauer -- Not in Tampa!"
The upbeat vibe helped the show launch an avalanche of promotional segments, from a mountain of plugs for NBC's telecast of the game itself, to bits featuring Monday's 3-D episode of Chuck, Lauer's interview Sunday with President Obama from the White House and a five-hour pregame show that Roker joked "might last until the next Super Bowl."
It's the kind of performance you'd expect from a show that notched its biggest ratings lead in recent months last week, sparked by coverage of Obama's inauguration, topping ABC's Good Morning America by 1.3 million viewers.
Vieira, who continued a Today show tradition by visiting Tampa's famed Bern's Steak House upon her arrival Thursday, expects to stay until Monday afternoon, anchoring that day's edition of the show from the city. And she's hoping things run a little smoother than this morning.
"You just have to laugh (the problems) off," said Vieira, noting that microphones and cameras were cutting off throughout the show as power failed in different places on the set. "It's a dance, where you're trying not to get in each other's way, but add your own flavor. And we seem to have become a well-oiled machine."