'Today' Says Goodbye to Vieira, and Anchors Prepare for New Roles

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Meredith Vieira hosted her last Today show Wednesday morning in a broadcast that was bittersweet in theme.

In and out of the commercial breaks from 7-9 a.m. were montages of video clips from Vieira’s five-year tenure on the show, including a video tribute featuring fellow Today hosts sharing their thoughts about Vieira.

There were musical tributes too; Carole King performed “You’ve Got a Friend” live in-studio – a favorite song of Vieira’s when she was in high school. The 8 a.m. hour concluded with a live viral video of the Today show cast and crew singing Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” while running a teary-eyed Vieira through the studio and out onto the 30 Rock plaza.

But as Vieira departs, her exit triggers a chain of succession at the NBC morning program where Ann Curry will take over for Vieira alongside Matt Lauer, Natalie Morales steps into Curry’s vacated role as news anchor, and former NBC White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie will replace Morales as host of the 9 a.m. hour.

B&C caught up with Morales and Guthrie earlier this week to ask what they’re looking forward to most in their new roles.

Morales, for one, is hoping to do more in-depth interviews with newsmakers, with a special interest in Latin American leaders. Near the top of her list? Raoul Castro. “It would an interesting time to revisit Cuba with Fidel Castro having given all authority over to his brothers,” she said in an interview with B&C.

Guthrie, who has spent the last three years immersed in covering politics, is excited to branch out from hard news and be part of a show that allows her to show off her personality. She said she feels very comfortable with the lifestyle-type segments she’ll be doing on Today – everything except cooking. Morales has tried to help by giving her a cooking lesson, but “It’s going to have to be cooking lessons, plural,” Guthrie says.

But Guthrie will continue to keep her hand in hard news as Today’s chief legal analyst, and she has already appeared on the show to talk about the Casey Anthony trial. And as the 2012 election heats up, she expects to remain involved in the show’s political coverage, as it’s a part of her career she doesn’t want to give up. “In saying my goodbyes in Washington, I told all of the folks that work at the White House, ‘I’m still going to call you,’” she said with a laugh.