By Gillian Flynn
Updated December 27, 2006 at 05:00 AM EST

Meredith Vieira is making a graceful transition as coanchor of NBC’s Today show. The newswoman — who could screech with the best on The View — is slipping into Katie Couric’s chair with ease. She gives Matt Lauer the same sisterly hard time that Couric did: When Lauer confessed that he wished he’d been an architect, Vieira rejoined eye-rollingly, ”Well, dream on.” Fortunately, Vieira also does the gush — she compared being next to Lauer to ”sitting next to the cutest guy” on ”the first day of school.” Okay, in print that sounds sticky, but Vieira’s ungirlish charm allows her to pull it off. She delivers such comments with a twist of ironic poise, making the show’s drooly first-week lovefest — even Tom Brokaw popped up to laud her ”smiling face and sassy style” — actually moderately endearing. Ultimately, it’s hard to tell how Vieira’s throaty, more gravitas’d Today persona will play out — and whether she can take on the similarly plummy ladies of The Early Show (Couric’s smart-bomb bubbliness made her better counterprogramming). More crucial is how Vieira will jell with newsreader Ann Curry; when she and the serene Curry both sit on the couch, the room feels like it’s been wrapped in heavy velvet. But better velvet than fluff.


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