"Today" Show Hosts Past and Present

From Galloway to Guthrie, A Look at the Many Faces on "Today"

Celebrity Sightings in New York City - January 6, 2017
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"The Today Show" is NBC's popular morning talk show and news program. While the show is now known simply as "Today," it has been on the air since the early 1950s. Over the decades, this show has become the launching point of many news anchor's careers, familiar faces that greet us each morning. 

You likely know the name Matt Lauer and might remember his one-time co-host Katie Couric who was behind the anchor desk for 15 years.

Yet, did you know that the distinguished list of "Today" hosts includes Barbara Walters, Tom Brokaw, and Bryant Gumbel?

Let's take a look at the show's many co-hosts and how they've come and gone.

Dave Garroway (1952 to 1961)

Dave Garroway was the original host of " The Today Show" in 1952. The New York native was a page at NBC, working his way up through a series of positions at television and radio stations across the country. He became known as the "Roving Announcer," always able to find a story.

In 1951, he hosted a variety show titled "Garroway at Large." The popularity of that show led NBC president Pat Weaver to hire Garroway as the host of his new entertainment/news program. When "Today" launched, it was panned by critics, but Garroway's easy style won over audiences and, eventually, critics as well.

After nearly 10 years on the program - and while secretly battling depression - Garroway said goodbye in 1961, saying he wanted to spend more time with his kids.

John Chancellor (1961 to 1962) 

John Chancellor was a true newsman and the popular host of the "NBC Nightly News." When Garroway resigned from "Today," Chancellor was asked to step in.

Chancellor agreed to give it a try, but he never connected with audiences and felt uncomfortable in the role of an easy-going host.

He asked to be released from his contract and NBC agreed. Chancellor left "Today" 14 months after he started.

Hugh Downs (1962 to 1971)

Chancellor was replaced by Akron, Ohio native Hugh Downs, who had made a name for himself as a news anchor, author, game show host, music composer, and so much more. Downs was considered one of "Today's" most popular hosts, choosing to leave after nearly 10 years on the show.

Frank McGee (1971 to 1974)

Frank McGee was a serious news journalist and, after taking the reins of "The Today Show" in 1971, he steered the show in that same direction.

McGee insisted on opening and closing the show alone - possibly because he was threatened by up-and-coming journalist Barbara Walters, who had been a part of "Today" since 1961. So threatened by Walters, McGee also insisted on asking guests the first three questions of an interview, before Walters could join in.

McGee left "Today" in 1974 after losing his battle with bone cancer.

Barbara Walters (1974 to 1976)

After McGee's untimely departure, NBC finally named Barbara Walters as co-host of "Today," making her the first female co-host of the program. Walters was already acting in the capacity for several years prior.

Walters left in 1976 to co-anchor the "ABC Evening News."

Jim Hartz (1974 to 1976)

Oklahoma native Jim Hartz made his way through a series of broadcasting roles before becoming the anchor of the late evening news at WNBC in New York. From there, the network asked him to join Barbara Walters as co-host of "The Today Show."

Hartz stuck with the show for two years, before Walters left and NBC decided to overhaul the program.

Tom Brokaw (1976 to 1981)

Today, he is best known as the former anchor of "NBC Nightly News" and author of "The Greatest Generation." Yet, Tom Brokaw became a household name as the co-host of "Today" alongside Jane Pauley in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Brokaw left to when asked to anchor the "Nightly News."

Jane Pauley (1976 to 1989)

In a way, Jane Pauley introduced viewers to the modern era of "Today." It was with her and Brokaw that a popular pair of co-hosts - one male, one female - would anchor the morning news program and trade interviews and headlines equally.

Pauley became immensely popular as " Today" co-host, alongside Bryant Gumbel.

After more than 10 years on the program, Pauley allegedly said she didn't enjoy the difficult hours and expectations associated with the programs. Rumor suggested that NBC was nudging her to leave so they could replace her with a younger co-host. By 1989, it was enough, and Pauley bid farewell to the show.

Bryant Gumbel (1982 to 1997)

Much of Bryant Gumbel's stint on "Today" was met with controversy. Even before he began, there was a tussle among NBC executives over whether Gumbel would be the right choice. After all, he was just a sports reporter and a hard news journalist might be a better replacement for Tom Brokaw.

Gumbel won over the day and quickly won over audiences as well. He became the first African-American to co-host the morning program.

It took some time for Gumbel and Pauley to find a rhythm that worked well, but eventually, the duo clicked. Together, they made "Today" the popular program it is today, taking the number one spot away from "Good Morning America."

Gumbel left "Today "not long after an internal memo circulated in which Gumbel grumbled about how Today was being managed. In it, he took some shots at his fellow co-hosts and colleagues, especially Willard Scott.

Deborah Norville (1990 to 1991)

Deborah Norville replaced Jane Pauley as co-host of "Today" in 1990, but her appointment was met with controversy. Many speculated that Norville was selected simply because she was younger and cuter than Pauley. That may have affected ratings, as "Today" slumped to second place behind "GMA."

Nervous, NBC executives ditched Norville after less than a year on-air. Norville says that NBC fired her while she was on maternity leave, giving her little chance to say goodbye to her audience and colleagues. Norville went on to host "Inside Edition."

Katie Couric (1991 to 2006)

Katie Couric was arguably the most popular co-host of "Today" throughout its history. She joined "Today" as co-host in 1991 after serving as a national political correspondent.

Couric, together with Bryant Gumbel and Matt Lauer, built a "Today Show" juggernaut that kept "GMA" at bay for more than 16 years. 

While co-host, Couric would occasionally substitute for Tom Brokaw as anchor of "NBC Nightly News." Later, she would be offered the opportunity to anchor the "CBS Evening News." Considering the opportunity too much to pass up, Couric took the position and departed "Today" in 2006.

Matt Lauer (1997 to present)

After Gumbel's departure, "Today's" news anchor, Matt Lauer, was named co-host of the show. Lauer and Couric clicked almost instantly, becoming the most powerful co-host team in the show's history. With 20 years on the show, Lauer has become the modern face of "Today" and seen four co-hosts come and go.

Meredith Vieira (2006 to 2011)

Veteran newswoman Meredith Vieira replaced popular co-host Katie Couric in 2006. Previously, Vieira served as moderator on ABC's "The View," created by former "Today" co-host Barbara Walters. Vieira became a popular co-host but chose to leave the program in 2011 to spend more time with her ailing husband.

Ann Curry (2011 to 2012)

Ann Curry succeeded Vieira as co-host, after taking Lauer's place as the news anchor in 1997. Curry was asked to leave "Today" as co-host after less than a year.

The celebrity gossip stories were rampant, leaving some to assume she was sacked because of falling ratings and tension with Lauer. Curry remained with the network as an international correspondent until finally leaving in 2015.

Savannah Guthrie (2012 to present)

"Today's" latest co-host is Savannah Guthrie, who previously served as co-host of the third hour of the show. The 40-year-old was named co-host a day after Curry's departure.

It seems that Guthrie has been good for the show's ratings. She is often referred to as spunky and likable, everything the early morning viewers want. Though morning news show ratings overall have not been what they once were, " Today" remains in a see-saw battle with "GMA."