- Associated Press - Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Meredith Vieira has spent her last morning hosting TV’s most-watched morning show.

The popular “Today” co-anchor ended her five-year run on Wednesday, telling viewers her decision to go is “right, but it’s hard.”

That decision was clearly hers alone. Seated beside co-host Matt Lauer, she has helped keep “Today” the audience front-runner among network morning shows. The 57-year-old Vieira has explained she wants to spend more time with her family.

Lauer called Vieira’s final day “a very bittersweet Wednesday morning.”

The broadcast made room for news about the nation’s severe-heat advisories and scandal-ridden Congressman Anthony Weiner’s Twitter woes. But throughout the show, tributes and highlight reels honored Vieira’s “Today” tenure.

Vieira wiped her eyes as she was serenaded by Carole King with a Vieira favorite, “You’ve Got a Friend.” Then, spontaneously, she led the “Today” gang across the studio to gather around King at the piano.

Later, in a creative and technical tour de force, Vieira was surprised with a starring role in a live music video to the tune of Journey’s rousing classic “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Led by various members of the “Today” company, Vieira scampered and danced from the studio through the warrens of the “Today” control room and offices, then up the stairs and outside to Rockefeller Plaza where she was cheered by the gathered crowd.

The number ended in a cast-of-hundreds, Hollywood-worthy production number including Jimmy Fallon miming the song’s soaring guitar licks. (Special mention to the camera operator who caught the entire thing in a single flowing shot.)

A few minutes later, it was time to go.

Saying “I adore you,” Lauer told Vieira he marvels “that for someone who’s got talent as large as yours, how small your ego is. You’ve taught us all how to be great teammates.”

Weather anchor Al Roker called Vieira’s “Today” stay “five of the greatest years of our lives.”

But the good years should continue for “Today.” In what should be a smooth transition, “Today” show veteran Ann Curry will take over for Vieira at the anchor desk.

Meredith Vieira debuted as Lauer’s “Today” partner on a Wednesday in September 2006, saying she felt “like it’s the first day of school and I’m sitting next to the cutest guy.”

She was a longtime CBS newswoman, host of daytime’s “The View” and emcee of the syndicated game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (where she continues).

Story Continues →