Television is about more than people watching,” says Today’s executive producer, Steve Friedman, ”it’s about interaction.” But Today may get more than it bargained for when it begins broadcasting from a street-level, glass- enclosed Rockefeller Center set on June 20.
Since coanchors Katie Couric and Bryant Gumbel will try to be as neighborly as David Letterman, anyone strolling by the $15 million complex — located on Manhattan’s 49th Street — between 7 and 9 a.m. has a shot at becoming the next Mujibur and Sirajul. In fact, NBC is encouraging folks to stop and stare at Couric and Gumbel in action — much the way Today fans stared at Dave Garroway when the show originated from the RCA Exhibition Hall in 1952.
What’s the advantage of being within plain sight of New Yorkers? ”If Arnold Schwarzenegger says, ‘people love me and the critics don’t,”’ says Friedman, ”we can ask the people.” But since this is New York City, the inside glass wall is bulletproof, and there will be plainclothes and uniformed guards keeping a watchful eye. The talent, however, realizes that anything is possible. ”If a lunatic wants to do something, he’s going to do it,” says news anchor Matt Lauer. But Friedman envisions a more benign person on the street. ”This is going to be the thing to do when tourists come to town,” he predicts. ”At seven in the morning, not even the Statue of Liberty is open.”