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Jeff Simon: Who Megyn Kelly thinks she is, anyway

"The truth" said Megyn Kelly, is "that I'm done with politics for a while ... It's gotten so dark."

And dicey, employment-wise.

Well, OK, it didn't take long to figure out that her first takeover of the third hour of NBC's "Today Show" was a flat-out bid for whatever she can score of daytime TV's Oprah Prize.

There's a ton of money to made on daytime TV and she walloped us high and hard on Monday with some snippets of her "relatable" autobiography. ("I am from upstate New York--Syracuse and Albany ... My dad died of a heart attack when I was 15. He was 45.")

Her intention was to deliver "hope and fun" she said. As her first official act, then, as NBC's competition for Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, she put herself in service to NBC promotion while the network is reportedly paying her a seven-figure salary to strike out some serious rating territory.

She did her best to ratify another big network investment -- the money paid to the comeback cast of "Will and Grace" which the network is counting on for nice fat numbers and oodles of free publicity. Debra Messing and Eric McCormack held hands during their part of the four-character gang interview. Hope and fun, you know?

The first official commercial break during her multi-segment "Ode to Will and Grace" contained commercial messages from the following: Old Navy, Pantene, Applebee's, Eggland's Best, International Delight Foam Creamer (you spritz it into coffee as if it were Reddi Whip), Tresiba medication, L'Oreal Paris Rosy Tone Skin Moisturizer and Pillsbury Crescent Rolls.

That is what's at stake with Kelly's morning debut. Money, pure money. Oodles and oodles of the stuff. Advertisers love morning television and its predominantly female audience.

And Kelly, in her smiling, blonde, agreeable way, is going after at least a part of what Oprah Winfrey reaped daily for decades. And she's doing it while Oprah herself has joined "60 Minutes" every few weeks as a guest guru.

Kelly's opening day studio audience was, as daytime TV's crowds have always been expected to do, charged with acting like enthusiastic trained seals, thereby providing a sonic carpet of long ovations every time the applause sign went off.

When I was a kid way back in the middle of another century, my mother took my brother and I to see New York for the first time and  somehow managed to score tickets to the game show "Strike It Rich," starring the less-than-immortal Warren Hull. It was his job to solicit the grim life stories of people seeking the show's money.

I was shocked at the applause signs and the number of times we were commanded to work for our free seats.

In the years to come, the applauding audience for all live talk shows has become the major character of them all. The amount of applause labor they put in for one crummy hour of live TV is somewhat amazing. It's no wonder that Oprah took to giving audiences at least the possibility of free cars every now and then.

After an hour of morning TV, a hard-working morning TV audience is likely to need a good, long, well-soaped shower.

To make sure no audience member at home believed too many of the supermarket tabloids saying that Kelly was after Matt Lauer's job, the whole morning cast of the "Today Show" was brought on to show clips of them all kibitzing with Kelly. In Lauer's clip, he was showing her his expertise at omelet making. At the crucial moment, she flipped it on to its other side, just by flipping the pan.

Make of the symbolism what you will. Whatever you do, don't tell the National Enquirer.

You will remember that Kelly's audition for the NBC News show opposite "60 Minutes" during the summer was accounted a rousing flop by most. Fox's terror may have been, briefly, the scourge of Donald Trump and Fox's own Bill O'Reilly and Roger Ailes but opposite "60 Minutes" she ran into the oldest of all buzzsaws about fame in America: the unstated questions peevish Americans can always seem to ask "just who does (fill in the blank) think he or she is, anyway."

Without presumably important political judgments at stake, she can try to be on the hope and fun side of the TV viewer equation. Can she, as Lauer could, cross-dress convincingly? Or be as willfully silly across the dial as Ripa and Seacrest were on their opening show?

We'll see. One thing she'd be well-advised to do very soon is have a whole week of shows about women and harassment in the media. It's a subject she really knows about, considering her reported usefulness to those investigating the cases against Ailes and O'Reilly (Not personally, no doubt, but in Fox News' "climate" of such messiness.)

No one in current television could deal with that subject with more authority. Think of the female fellow travelers she could assemble to tell their tales.

Not "fun" perhaps. But it would provide hope for a lot of people.

Maybe even a whole gender.


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