THE ORACLE OF MORNING TV?

After so many years of reading the tea leaves of morning television —  who’s in, who’s out, who’s moving the Nielsen needle, which anchor is bored, who will get fired — I thought it was time to try something more effective.  After all, with so many real changes announced at one, and so many more rumors, I just needed to know what our lives will look like at 7:00 a.m. each morning, once all the pieces and players are in place.

Viera to be sadly missed by colleagues and viewers alike.

First, I will be sad to see Meredith Viera go this June.  She’s a great reporter, wildly popular anchor and, in the best (and rarest) compliment in the television business, she will be as sadly missed by her colleagues as by her loyal viewers.

But before we banish Meredith to Millionaire forever, I share with you my odd sense that she will be back at our breakfast tables before long.  Perhaps the summer of ’13.  More on that in a moment.

I know it sounds crazy, but here’s why I say we may see Meredith again.  I’m certainly not clairvoyant, although I have occasionally served a prophecy of doom.  But as I started to explain, I decided to stop reading the tea leaves, and instead drink them with the rest of the tea.  The first night, I had a fitful, interrupted sleep.  But the second night, as I drifted off, the most interesting visions came to me in a dream which I will now recount.

[Cue the wavy lines]

It is  7:19 a.m. September 19th, 2011, the start of  the network’s new fall season.  On NBC’s Today Show, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry just finished a controversial news report on the discovery of a happiness gene, when sweet Al Roker pops up behind them and announces: “Controversy over.  The genome project just called and they confirmed I’ve got it.”  Business as usual there.

Over at CBS, anchors Harry Smith and Erica Hill sit on the newly designed set for the relaunch of CBS’ 120 Morning News Minutes. Harry and Erica have just finished playing clips from each story from last night’s 60 Minutes, as they do every Monday, and they are teasing to the next half hour when they will be sharing 60 Minutes’ outtakes.   Harry now reads a couple new headlines, including the “happiness gene” story and somberly quips, “Andy Rooney: no happiness gene.”  Erica responds, “And Harry Smith?”  To which he replies: “Definitely no happiness gene.”  Suddenly, out of no where,  newly re-instated weatherman Dave Price announces his “All Access Pass to Happiness” contest where a lucky viewer will get to spend 24 hours listening to him tell the different ways his staff and bosses can continue to make him happy, especially since they all have spent the past months on a search and destroy campaign ridding CBS of every person, idea — even every stick of furniture that reminds them of  Sean McManus, the CBS president who had fired Harry and Dave –in fact, all The Early Show anchors,  then put in place an executive producer who ignored 60 Minutes.   (I know that all sounds wacky, but hey, that’s the nature of dreams.)

At ABC’s Good Morning America, anchors George Stephanopoulos and Katie Couric are slaying viewers with their own lists of who has the happiness gene and who doesn’t.  They start with themselves, agreeing Katie has it, George doesn’t, but his wife , Ali, does so that works.  Dick Cheney: no happiness genes.  Charlie Sheen:  medically induced happiness genes.  Barack Obama: no actual happiness gene, but rather an I-killed-Bin-Laden happiness brain cell happiness receptor that’s been activated since May.  Soon,  weather girl Lara Spencer  joins saying she has the happiness gene even though she’d been promised she could  co-anchor with George.  But she’s still happy.  She’s the permanent substitute anchor and is looking forward to the morning after election night when Katie co-anchors with Diane  into the wee hours and won’t want to get up too early.  Since it’s not a presidential election year, election-night budgets have reduced the set to two chairs, a chalk board and a flag to compensate for the tens of millions of dollars ABC News has gone over budget in Q2, Q3 and now Q4.  Still, they’re expecting record tune-in just to watch Katie and Diane “co-anchor” this one election night.  (Pass the popcorn.) Katie has only  signed on at  ABC for her “gap year,” the 12-15 months or so between leaving CBS and starting her ABC daytime show.

Odd photo of Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelo recurring in my dream: as they lock in a pay or play long-term contract that will have to be paid out.

Page Six reports Katie’s new show will bump Anderson Cooper’s daytime show off the air, something which ignites his happiness brain cell receptor as he hopes he can now replace Mark Consuelo as Kelly Ripa’s co-anchor on “Kelly and Mark,” which will become “Anderson and Kelly.”  (Hey Gelman says don’t read into it, it just sounds better.)

That, of course, sets in motion another round of musical morning chairs, but not at NBC where, in my herbal tea-induced vision, Matt and Ann continue to  anchor  the top morning  show, although they stopped counting after their five-day celebration of  Today’s 1,000th week at #1.

Which leaves ABC and CBS in a bidding war to grab up Meredith, at least for her gap year. With all the money she’s earned in sponsorships after leaving NBC News, she’s launching her own (online) network.  Based on her years verbally fencing with the women at The View, she’s decided to call it MOAN. (Meredith’s Outlandishly  Alternate Network).

[Wavy lines return readers to signal end of dream]

Let me know what drinking the tea leaves does for you. I am curious.

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