The first Mama Grizzly reference came in the first minute or two of former AK Gov. Sarah Palin’s stint guest hosting NBC’s Today show. In the opening segment, a very energetic Palin noted New York’s “warm” weather (by comparison to Alaska, where it was 25 degrees this morning, about 20 degrees cooler than NYC). Ann Curry scoffed at the idea that it was warm and that’s when Palin whipped out the Mama Grizzly. Alaskans are just made of sterner stuff than hardened New York network hosts, it seems: Curry was bundled up and visibly reacting to the mild weather. Matt Lauer wasted no time getting little digs and jibes in at his guest co-host, but I was struck by the appearances of the whole thing. Palin occupied screen right and looked great in a modest dark suit, and she appeared to be within an inch of Lauer’s height. She fit right in despite the evident hostility of Lauer and Curry, weatherman Al Roker seeming to be the friendliest of Today‘s permanent crew. She exuded the confidence of someone who has hosted big shows for decades, not the typical nervousness of a one-time guest host going behind enemy lines in the lamestream media.
Within about 15 minutes, Lauer’s attitude seemed to change. Palin joined Lauer and three other Today regulars, Star Jones, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, and Donny Deutsch, for a round of pop culture gab. Palin lauded Oprah Winfrey for living the American dream in establishing her OWN network, which is struggling to attract an audience on cable. Palin also defended Jessica Simpson, whose pregnancy-related weight gain has generated tabloid and online derision. Jones found herself alone criticizing Simpson for putting herself on magazine covers, while Palin and Snyderman defended her. Snyderman did offer that Simpson has gained too much weight, and should work to lose it as soon as possible after her child is born. Deutsch contributed little beyond snide one-liners and politically correct hostility toward Palin. He tried putting Palin on the spot about the “negativity” in politics, but Palin deftly turned the jab around to zap Bill Maher. Deutsch, who hosts his own poorly watched cable show, quickly surrendered. Lauer found himself agreeing with Palin more often than not and seemed to warm up to her, but caught himself and offered her a condescending “Good job!” toward the end of the segment.