- The Washington Times - Monday, December 20, 2004

The Honors return

CBS keeps tradition with its annual broadcast of the Kennedy Center Honors, airing at 9 tonight.

The 27th annual ceremony, held Dec. 5, pays tribute to actor/director Warren Beatty, actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee; pop music’s Elton John; opera soprano Joan Sutherland; and Oscar-winning composer-conductor John Williams for their contributions to the arts.

The list of performers and presenters is nearly as impressive; among them Angela Bassett, Jack Nicholson, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, Itzhak Perlman and Renee Fleming.

During the ceremony taped earlier this month at the KenCen’s Opera House, Mr. Nicholson tweaked Mr. Beatty — his former co-star and director in “Reds.”

Miss Bassett and Mr. Combs were among those lauding the husband-and-wife acting team of Mr. Davis, 87, and Miss Dee, 80, who were honored for their stage and film careers as well as their political activism.

Actor Robert Downey Jr. was among those paying tribute to Mr. John. He attempted a little political humor prior to his presentation, as the audience — which included former political foes President George W. Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry — looked on. Yet It remains to be seen just how much of Mr. Downey’s rambling speech, which drew nervous titters from the crowd, will survive the editing process.

Norville steps down

Deborah Norville has decided one job is enough for now.

The former “Today Show” anchor is leaving her MSNBC show, “Deborah Norville Tonight,” to spend more time on her syndicated “Inside Edition” program, Associated Press reports.

“This decision comes down to one issue: time,” Miss Norville explained in a statement to MSNBC employees Friday. “With my pre-existing commitments to King World’s ‘Inside Edition’ and to my husband and three children, there simply are not enough hours in my day to do justice to my colleagues at MSNBC and the program we aspire to.”

Of course, ratings for “Deborah Norville Tonight” have been anemic, so her decision smacks of pragmatism as well as time management .

MSNBC has consistently been beaten in the ratings by CNN’s “Larry King Live” and “Hannity & Colmes” on the Fox News Channel.

Miss Norville will continue with “Inside Edition,” which she’s anchored since 1995. She will remain with MSNBC until mid-January.

Rick Kaplan, president of MSNBC, said new programming for her 9 p.m. time slot had not yet been developed.

Katie’s big move?

A new name is being bandied about as a possible successor to CBS’ Dan Rather — and it’s someone who might appreciate a later wake-up call.

Katie Couric, the princess of perkiness and co-anchor of NBC’s “Today,” is at the top of the list of possible replacements to anchor the “CBS Evening News,” according to the New York Post.

The newspaper, citing Broadcast & Cable magazine, says CBS wants a “superstar” to take over the high-profile gig.

Miss Couric has just 18 months remaining on her $15 million a year contract with NBC, the magazine reported in its latest edition. Still, her agent Alan Berger, told Broadcast & Cable “there’s nothing to talk about” at the moment.

Meanwhile, CBS could also choose a temporary successor while waiting for Miss Couric’s current obligation to expire.

Among the possible place holders: Harry Smith, co-anchor of CBS’ “The Early Show”; Ed Bradley, of the network’s “60 Minutes”; and Bob Schieffer of CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

Mr. Rather — who succeeded Walter Cronkite when he stepped down from the anchor chair in 1981 — plans to retire from his longtime position in March.

Compiled by Christian Toto from staff and wire reports.

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