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Kelly Ripa, Megyn Kelly and the coming Wars in the Morning

I'll say this for the cover of In Touch Magazine. It stopped me in my tracks at the supermarket checkout line. I immediately dove in and started reading the cover story as I waited t0 pay for my cottage cheese.

Here's what the cover promised.

"Matt (Lauer) Replaced by Megyn (Kelly).

It's Personal! Inside the Ultimate Betrayal

His 'Today' Co-Workers Speak Out

Matt's Fury After He's Blindsided

Behind the Scenes of the Show's Biggest Scandal Ever"

When you finally read the "story," it turns out to be a whole lot of anonymously sourced Professional Wrestling Fist Pumping and Soap Opera Semi-Hysterics, all of which is built around a few incontestable but lower-octane facts.

Which are, as we learned last week: Megyn Kelly will be part of NBC's 9 a.m. slot every morning against what Kelly Ripa has finally decided will be her co-host after a year of "auditions" -- Ryan Seacrest, America's 21st century Dick Clark of Infotainment World.

I don't really care about morning television. But I must confess a total weakness for stories about morning television which open up a fascinating and hugely revealing dark side of the American TV audience.

I wouldn't dream of claiming enough inside knowledge of behind-the-scenes Borgia antics of morning TV but I sure know nonsense that has the sound of overheated "Fake News" when I hear it.

lf you translate all of the above hysterical wishful thinking on people's parts, you can, I think, take this much to the bank:

1) Kelly is eager to get her Sunday and daily morning gig started and delve into some ambitious ideas.

2) A few NBC executives are sick to death of clout Matt Lauer has long held at the "Today" Show. Remember that the show's low point in many years was its profoundly terrible mismanagement of the removal of Ann Curry which, as it played out on the air, had the look of a lot of smug, overpaid men pushing a crying, helpless woman out the door while she told her fans how hard she tried to be adequate in the eyes of her pitiless male bosses.

That Lauer survived that public relations debacle deserves to be a chapter by itself in a journalism school textbook on career longevity and survival.

We are, you'll suspect, not dealing with real human beings or real careers in the "In Touch" Supermarket  Tabloid Fake News World. We are dealing, with Kelly, as a kind of New Godzilla of Morning TV whose actual $20 million salary can be expanded by mythologists into sufficient rapacity to gobble up Lauer at the first opportunity.

My favorite piece of "Godzilla Megyn" news is that when her Sunday night news show actually begins in June on NBC, she wants to make a splash by interviewing Vladimir Putin, no less. And NBC management wants her to, not Lauer.

Given everything else we actually know about American media and politics in the past six months, you'll have to admit that would be a nightmare scenario so baroque (and potentially revealing) that actual history has taken a back seat to Reality TV i.e. a grotesque Professional Wrestling and Soap Opera version of history.

The idea that Kelly and Lauer are now the NBC News Godzilla and Rodan fighting on the streets of Tokyo is more than a little ridiculous.

I have no doubt that Kelly is ambitious enough to have wild and outlandish Barbara Walters ideas about who would be a great "get" for her nascent NBC career. Nor do I doubt the existence of NBC peevishness aimed in Lauer's direction.

But in the real world of real people and real news careers, ratings aren't that predictable. Nor is naked hostility to the powers that be the smartest tactic for beginning a new job, especially if the newbie is female. (Ask Katie Couric, whose accession to the throne of CBS was, if anything, managed even worse than NBC's weepy removal of Curry.)

Kelly, as of this moment, is only promising and interesting. That's all. She asked some interesting and feisty questions during the TV debates and she proved useful to the Murdoch family in dynamiting Roger Ailes off his throne atop Fox News.

She's smart, beautiful, ambitious and her career could all whirl into a big ball of overhyped nothing if America gets a good solid look at her and decides she's another story of blond ambition they've seen before and didn't much like the first time.

It's even possible that Megyn/Godzilla -- after a good stiff round of morning news ratings polo -- could fall victim to the hour of infotainment gingerbread cookies offered by Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest across the dial in the mornings.

In which case, stay tuned for Seacrest becoming the newest Russian premiere and Kim Kardashian as the 21s Century Katharine the Great.


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