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Florence Henderson looks marvelous in person. If you believe that Cher looks great for her age -- well, Henderson beats her by 20 years.

Still, one critic did suggest in Los Angeles that the legendary matriarch of "The Brady Bunch" doesn't look quite as good as the airbrushed publicity shots distributed for her new 9 a.m. weekday program, "Later Today."

The guy rather indelicately suggested that Henderson looked more like Shelley Long in the photo.

"What do you mean?" Henderson said with mock indignation. "What do I look like now, chopped liver?"

Her two new NBC teammates, Jodi Applegate and Asha Blake, immediately came to her defense at the recent press conference. But after handling all those Brady kids, Henderson really didn't need any help.

"Well, look at Jodi and look at Asha," Henderson said. "Asha almost looks white."

Which proves that when you're Florence Henderson's age -- 65 -- you can say just about anything.

As the silliness continued, producer Jeff Zucker couldn't have been happier.

"This is what we want the show to be," said Zucker. "Jodi (of 'Weekend Today') and Asha (an anchor at KNBC-TV in Los Angeles who used to co-anchor 'Good Morning America Sunday') bring great news backgrounds to this program. But these three people also have tremendous personalities. And I think that's what is fun and fresh about them.

"There will be times when we'll just have fun when appropriate, and when there's news, Jodi and Asha are as capable of handling that as anybody, and they'll do that."

In other words, "Later Today," premiering this morning at 9 on Channel 2, doesn't have the same sensibility as "Today."

It may be more like "The View," the ABC morning show hosted by five women that Channel 7 relegates to 2:05 a.m.

"There's only three of us, so we consider ourselves 'The Few,' " cracked Applegate.

There will be a lot more silliness and opinions on "Later Today" than Katie Couric and Matt Lauer offer, and less news and weather unless events of the day warrant it.

The plan is to mix news, entertainment and advice on medical, parental, cooking and financial matters before a live studio audience.

"It's not really the third hour of the 'Today' show because if it was, you would see Katie and Matt," said Zucker, the youthful executive who has steered the 7 to 9 a.m. program to first place for the past five years.

"And it's not the sister of 'Today,' either. It's the cousin of the 'Today' show."

Which means that family members like Matt and Katie and Al Roker may show up from time to time. And some "Today" elements may get extended play, too.

Take the Friday concerts, which end for viewers of "Today" at 9 a.m.

"The little-known fact of those concerts is that they continue," said Zucker. "The artists play for the crowd that's out there, sometimes until 9:25 or 9:30. We'll take that right into 'Later Today.' "

Because of the success of its older cousin, NBC affiliates are lining up to carry "Later Today" at a great rate. Zucker said he expects the show to be carried by 94 percent of network affiliates, with more than 70 percent carrying it live at 9 a.m.

For Channel 2, the extra hour is a television godsend.

The local affiliate received a healthy 5 rating for "Today" in May, which is higher than the station's local news received at 5 and 6 p.m.

And once "Today" signed off on Channel 2, "Montel" slipped to a 2 rating at 9 a.m. The station didn't hit a "Today" number until it carried "NBC Nightly News With Tom Brokaw" at 6:30 p.m.

Whether it's called "More Today" or "Later Today," this program can't do anything but help WGRZ-TV even if the program will be competing with the very popular "Regis and Kathie Lee" on Channel 7.

"I like their show, I enjoy them, but we are going to be doing a different show than they do," said Asha Blake. "I think there may be a little more information on our show."

And less talk about Frank, Cody and Cassidy, too.

There certainly will be more of Florence Henderson, who is in her second career on "Today." Back in the "dark ages," she was a "Today Girl" (1959-1960) who worked with Dave Garroway, Frank Blair and Jack Lescoulie.

How long ago was that? Well, all three men are dead.

"I also sang on the show. I became pregnant on the show," said Henderson. "In those days, you couldn't even say the word 'pregnant' and they would hide me behind potted palms when I sang, behind furniture. My goodness, how far we have come. Now people actually do get pregnant on television, literally."

Henderson said she credits her new assignment to a guest segment she did on "Today" with Katie Couric a while back.

Afterward, Henderson was told that she was the first choice for the new show and that NBC hadn't planned on talking to anybody else.

"I feel like I'm just starting again. I'm so excited about this, I cannot tell you," Henderson said.

At Henderson's age, you might have thought CBS would have come calling to make her part of Bryant Gumbel's new morning program, "The Early Show." After all, CBS is the network with older viewers and it needs all the help it can get in the changing and competitive morning world.

But Henderson feels as young as her picture makes her look.

"I hope, if I do nothing else, that I can inspire people -- and my audience ranges from 2 years old up to probably 95," says Henderson. "And I hope I can make all those people feel hopeful, feel good, feel optimistic and laugh and have a good time."

If not, well, the last I heard, Shelley Long was available.

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