By Amy Ryan
Updated May 31, 2006 at 04:08 PM EDT

9:51 And that’s it! One final montage of wacky-Katie clips over the closing credits. Throwing snowballs, lifting weights, catching a football, hugging people, and dressing as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. I think we’ll miss you most of all, Scarecrow. Will we get this same blend of giddiness and seriousness, these same jaw-dropping, must-watch moments, from Meredith Vieira? No disrespect to Ms. V., but I kind of doubt it. For better or worse, Couric made Today over in her own image, and it’ll be a different show without her.

9:50 Members of NBC bureaus in far-flung locations toast Katie with champagne. The New York staff presents her with a large framed collage of NBC staffers’ faces and a giant, tiered cake that’s melting in the sun.

9:47 Montage No. 7: Memories of the Today behind-the-camera staff. ”She’s the girl who borrows your notes at school and does better on the test than you do,” says one producer. ”She’s just as fun off camera as she is on,” says another. Total montage length: two minutes.

9:40 Harvey Fierstein joins the Jersey Boys cast for a medley tribute composed by Hairspray‘s Marc Shaiman. Bonus points to Shaiman for working the word ”colonoscopy” into a couplet. Matt’s shaking his head at Fierstein’s rasp, but Katie’s laughing. I bet she’s thinking: Carson gets Bette Midler, I get this guy?

9:36 The Jersey Boys quartet changes the lyrics from ”Bye Bye Baby” to ”Bye Bye Katie.” The guy playing Frankie Valli looks like he’s going to cry.

9:30 Katie’s final half-hour kicks off with music cue ”If This Is It,” by Huey Lewis. Willard Scott and Gene Shalit are on hand. ”You may have been a headache, but you never were a bore,” sings Willard. Matt promises a surprise at the end of the upcoming performance by the cast of Jersey Boys. I’m guessing it’ll be CBS chief Les Moonves singing along to the Four Seasons’ ”Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.”

9:17 Montage No. 6. Here are the hair and fashion clips. Commentary by Joan Rivers and Jonathan Antin. ”Whoever put her in those tablecloth jackets should be shot,” says Rivers. Antin charitably compares Katie’s early short coif to the hairdos of Julie Andrews, Pat Benatar, and the Go-Gos. (Music cue: James Blunt’s ”You’re Beautiful.”) Total montage length: four minutes. Katie looks relieved that the clips weren’t more embarrassing, and thanks Rivers and Antin for being kind. ”Burn those tapes,” Katie pleads.

9:09 A couple dozen cancer survivors wearing ”Thank YouKatie!” T-shirts thank Katie for prodding them to get colonoscopies.The segment is, surprisingly, not maudlin, as the survivors tell theirstories.

9:01 (Music cue: Green Day’s ”The Time of Your Life.”) Althanks Katie, and they exchange a kiss. Ann says, ”Don’t be astranger, or I’ll stalk you.” Uh, okay. Natalie Morales praises Katieas a role model. Matt promises the montage of Bad Hair and FashionMoments.

8:53 On a more upbeat note, Bennett sings ”The Best Is Yet to Come.” Classy move.

8:50 Tony Bennett, looking and sounding terrific at 79, sings”The Way You Look Tonight,” which Matt says is the first song Couricand Monahan danced to at their wedding. Katie’s eyes get teary. Indeed,everyone, including Katie’s family, appears genuinely moved.

8:43 To honor Katie’s history-making future job as the firstfemale sole anchor of a nightly network newscast, Martina McBride sings”This One’s for the Girls.” Instead of just showing us McBride, theproducers cut away to Montage No. 5, clips of Katie hanging out withvarious famous women.

8:36 Montage #4. (Music cue: The Romantics’ ”What I LikeAbout You.”) Fans from around the country pay tribute to Katie. Fartoo many of them try to sing, all though none of them is any worse thanLa Couric herself. Supposedly all these people sent in these tapes oftheir own volition. Mercifully, the montage lasts just three minutes,though the adorable 4-year-old girl in the final clip is here live,crowned Katie’s Biggest Fan. Katie gives her a Katie Doll, completewith an NBC logo sweater, a microphone, reading glasses, and dyed blondhair.

8:34 Katie points to her family, who all look like they’drather be enduring root canal surgery than be trotted out on nationaltelevision. Don’t worry, this is the last time, she promises.

8:30 Music cue: Neil Sedaka’s ”Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”(the lounge ballad version). Katie touts upcoming musical guest MartinaMcBride. ”She’s so talented and so beautiful, I kind of hate her.”Katie pretends to smile when Matt tells her Joan Rivers will stop by.

8:23 There’s Katie’s family — they’re all cute! — and agroup of people we’ll be hearing more from after the break, people whocredit Katie for saving their lives by inspiring them to getcolonoscopies. Music cue: Christina Aguilera’s ”Beautiful.”

8:20 And now, clips of Katie saying good-bye, huggingpeople, kissing chimps, giving showouts to her crew and the fans,tossing her cap like Mary Tyler Moore. Total montage length: 11 minutes.

8:19 Segue into a set of clips of Katie’s travel experiences.Music cue: The Beatles’ ”Hello Goodbye,” though Johnny Cash’s ”I’veBeen Everywhere” would have been even more apt.

8:16 And now, clips of the fun-loving Katie, in all her wackyHalloween costumes, and trying various extreme-sporting activities.(Roll over, George Plimpton!) Music cues: The Police’s ”Every LittleThing She Does Is Magic,” Katrina and the Waves’ ”Walking onSunshine.”

8:15 With a Robin Williams quip about the colonoscopy-mania,we segue into a set of clips labeled ”Star Struck,” featuring Katie’scelebrity interview subjects. Lingering a little too long on her cameoin Austin Powers in Goldmember.

8:11 Music cue: The Beatles’ ”In My Life.” Time for MontageNo. 3. Pics of Katie’s two daughters and her late husband, Jay Monahan.Ah, it’s the long-awaited cancer montage! Here come the colonoscopies!

8:04 Matt returns the favor. ”Boy, have we laughed,” hesays. He’s holding her hands and talking about chemistry. ”Speaking ofchemistry, kiss me baby,” says Katie. Aw. Now on to the latestviolence in Iraq.

8:01 ”The word I keep coming back to is ‘gratitude,”’ Katiesays. ”I know I’ll never have a partner like you again,” she says toMatt,” because I’ll never be working with a partner again.” Bigguffaws. Similar nice words for Al and Ann. ”I sound like I’meu-googlizing, in the words of Zoolander.”

Yup, Matt promises we’ll hear from some colon cancer survivorsafter the break. ”I can’t wait!” says Katie. ”Are you having fun? Iam.”

7:45 Katie salutes her ”Ordinary People” subjects, dedicating to thema live, tearful duet by Idina Menzel and Trisha Yearwood, duetting on atune from Menzel’s hit Broadway show Wicked.”Because I knew you, I have been changed for good,” sings Yearwood.Who are we paying tribute to, again? Katie hugs her subjects. Cut to acommercial for Universal Orlando Resort, with a little girl saying,”If I had to hug one more princess on my vacation, I was going tohurl.”

7:33 Montage No. 2, called ”Ordinary People, Extraordinary Lives.”Poor Trisha Meili (a.k.a. the Central Park Jogger) is dragged throughher beating and rape ordeal, in order to demonstrate the positiveimpact Katie’s interview with her had on others. Similar interviewsubjects are trotted out for 10 minutes to show how Katie’s pieces onthem Made A Difference. Okay, we get it, Katie has the compassion ofMother Teresa. Hope this doesn’t segue into an in-depth look at Katie’sown colon, but I fear a colonoscopy clip is inevitable. Oy, now Meiliand the others are all here, standing solemnly in Rockefeller Plaza.(Music cue: Streisand’s ”The Way We Were.”)

7:32 Some fans tell Al they’ve been waiting at Rockefeller Plaza since4:30 to get their last glimpse of Katie. Enjoy the plaza while you can,folks; starting tomorrow, the Today crew will spend the summer in adifferent studio while the glass-walled Studio 1A is renovated. (It’ssupposed to be ready in time for Meredith Vieira’s arrival inSeptember.)

7:30 The show returns from station breaks, to the tune of ”The Goodbye Girl.” (Gosh, these music cues are clever!)

7:18 Enough grimness, now for the fun-loving Katie! Shopping, steppingout of cabs, showing off those famous gams, generally looking likeMarlo Thomas in That Girl.Thankfully, this takes up only the final minute of this 13-minutemontage. Apt musical snippets: Sixpence None the Richer’s ”There SheGoes” and the Beach Boys’ ”God Only Knows” (”…what I’d bewithout you.”) Sniffle!

7:14 Oy, will this montage never end? Now they’re rerunning the 9/11footage, JFK Jr. interviews, the Columbine massacre, the O.J. verdict,the L.A. riots, and both Iraq wars. A lesser newswoman might feel somecompunctions about pimping out such grisly and clips in order tocelebrate herself, but remember, Katie is fearless and tough. Oh, yes,and compassionate.

7:06 The first clip montage, taking us through Katie’s typical workday,showing footage of Katie’s pre-Today news gigs, early hairstyles, andearly interview coups on Today, like running into President George H.W.Bush during what was supposed to be a routine tour of the White Housewith the First Lady, and grilling him about Iran-Contra. In otherwords, Katie’s always been tough. (Don’t worry, Uncle Walter, yourlegacy will be safe!) But then we have to watch clips of Katie singingand dancing. ”We sang backup for Stevie Wonder,” she recalls. ”Itwas so horrific.” (Don’t worry, Cronkite couldn’t do theMacarena very well either.)

7:01 a.m. ”I’m feeling happy and sad and completely out ofcontrol, and you know how much I like that,” says Katie. These are forme, Matt says, pointing to a box of tissues. Katie suggests that shealready knows who today’s surprise guests are, thanks to some e-mailskullduggery. Can’t wait till she applies that kind of acumen to herinvestigative reports at CBS.