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Tuning in to TV: Palin joins ‘Today’ team against Couric on ‘GMA’

- - Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Sarah Palin was the much-hyped guest co-host on NBC's "Today," going head-to-head against former "Today" anchor Katie Couric, who this week is subbing on "Good Morning America" at her current workplace, ABC.

Greeting Mrs. Palin, host Matt Lauer joked that as part of the "Today" team, she was briefly including herself in the "lamestream media" she often rails about.

But Ms. Couric, with whom Mrs. Palin has a particular beef after a bruising 2008 interview as the GOP vice-presidential candidate, went unmentioned.

The closest reference to that faceoff, which took place when Ms. Couric anchored the "CBS Evening News": Mrs. Palin was first glimpsed Tuesday on the "Today" show couch with her face buried in newspapers. It was a good-sport nod to an embarrassing moment from the Couric interview when Mrs. Palin couldn't name any newspapers she read regularly, instead replying that she read "all of them, any of them that have been in front of me over all these years."

Mrs. Palin, who briefly was a local-TV sportscaster and currently is a contributor to Fox News Channel, displayed natural poise as part of the "Today" crew.

She participated in a party-planning segment with actress-reality star Tori Spelling and in a conversation with advisers on raising teenage girls.

She joined in the "Today's Professionals" panel with Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Star Jones and Donny Deutsch. Addressing the question whether Ashton Kutcher has the acting chops to portray Apple mastermind Steve Jobs in an upcoming biopic, Mrs. Palin said, "Do any of you here have experience with people being paid a lot of money to pretend like they're you?"

She was talking about the HBO film "Game Change," in which Julianne Moore portrays her in the 2008 campaign.

"I didn't see the movie," the former Alaska governor hastily noted, "and I wouldn't waste my time seeing the movie."

On the topic of whether the pregnant Jessica Simpson is being unfairly criticized for her weight gain, Mrs. Palin made no bones about what she would have thought about anyone targeting her with such criticism: "I would have wanted to punch 'em in the neck."

Before stepping in as a guest co-host, Mrs. Palin sat down with Mr. Lauer in the show's first hour in a more familiar role: talking about conservative politics.

Though she didn't sound too gung-ho about the prospect of Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential candidate, she said anybody "would be infinitely better" than Barack Obama in the White House.

Mrs. Palin's appearance is part of a nonstop campaign waged by "Today" to protect its 15-year winning streak over "GMA," a fight intensifying as the audience margin between the two rivals steadily erodes.

Mrs. Palin's booking appeared to be a counterpunch after ABC announced Ms. Couric's weeklong morning show return on ABC.

Still identified with her red blazers, Mrs. Palin on "Today" was trim in black accented with a red scarf, with her hair down and lightly frosted.

An image makeover? Maybe. But she acknowledged that her 2008 campaign association with a TV leading lady besides Ms. Couric still holds strong nearly four years later: Mrs. Palin said a woman had stopped her outside NBC earlier and asked where she was headed.

" 'I said '30 Rock,' and she said, 'Oh, honey, come here. I told you: Tina Fey is here.' "

Dave, Craig staying put in late night through 2014

Relax, all you fans of David Letterman and Craig Ferguson. They'll be staying put in late night awhile longer.

CBS announced Tuesday that both have re-upped to keep hosting their respective hours - "Late Show" and "The Late Late Show" - through 2014.

During the run of this agreement, Mr. Letterman will clinch his title as the longest-running late-night talk-show host in TV history (although on two networks), the network noted. He surpasses Johnny Carson's record of a few months less than 30 years at NBC's "Tonight Show." Mr. Letterman, who turns 65 next week, began on NBC in 1982 with "Late Night" before switching to CBS in 1993 after Jay Leno edged him out for the "Tonight Show" crown upon Carson's retirement.

No salary figures were disclosed. But as part of the new deal, "The Late Late Show" will be upgraded from its famously matchbox-sized studio to a larger stage at Los Angeles' CBS Television City, the network said.

"David Letterman is a late-night legend with an iconic show, and Craig Ferguson continues to evolve the genre in exciting and innovative ways," CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler said in making the announcement.

The Scottish-born Mr. Ferguson, 49, had been a musician, actor, writer, director and comedian when he took over "The Late Late Show" in 2005. He has been guaranteed the earlier slot when Mr. Letterman decides to retire.

"Late Show" airs weeknights at 11:35 p.m. EDT. "The Late Late Show" follows at 12:37 a.m. EDT. Both series are produced by Mr. Letterman's company Worldwide Pants.

Redford returns to Watergate with TV documentary

Hollywood film star Robert Redford is returning to Watergate with a documentary on the 1970s scandal that brought down Richard Nixon's presidency, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

"All The President's Men Revisited," a two-hour look back on Watergate and its enduring legacy on American politics and media, is to air on Discovery Channel television in 2013, the newspaper reported.

The documentary marks the start of Sundance Productions, recently launched by Mr. Redford to create programming for television broadcasters and the Internet, it added.

A spokesman for Discovery Channel confirmed the project to Agence France-Presse but gave no details pending a presentation to advertisers on Thursday.

The documentary takes its name from "All the President's Men," the 1976 film directed by Alan Pakula in which Mr. Redford and Dustin Hoffman portrayed Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who exposed the Watergate affair.

The New York Times said Mr. Woodward, Mr. Bernstein, former Washington Post Editor Ben Bradlee and Mr. Redford gathered in Mr. Woodward's living room in March and discussed the project.

"What's the legacy of Watergate? What do we understand? What are some of the lessons? It's been a long time," Mr. Woodward, the author of several best-selling political books, told the newspaper.

Mr. Woodward said the documentary would touch upon the role of Mark Felt, a former associate director of the FBI who in 2005 revealed himself to be Deep Throat, the long-anonymous Watergate whistleblower.

Compiled fromWeb and wire service reports.