On January 14th, 1952, The Today Show first premiered on NBC. The pioneer of the morning news show genre, and the fifth longest-running series on television, there's plenty of fascinating history behind it. Here are 5 things you probably didn’t know about this long-running television program...
Actress Sigourney Weaver’s Dad Came up With the Idea for the Program The president of NBC, Sylvester Weaver, Jr., who was also the father of actress Sigourney Weaver, is credited with coming up with the idea for “The Today Show.” However, the initial title of the program was “The Rise and Shine Revue.” During his time with the network, Weaver also started airing The Tonight Show and created Home and Wide Wide World. Years after leaving the network, he expressed his disgust with the direction the network had taken. He passed away in 2002.
It Was Many Years Before the Show Featured a Weatherman The weather reports on "The Today Show" were originally delivered by the news anchor, and the first news host, Dave Garroway, used a chalkboard map to show areas with precipitation. The U.S. Weather Bureau supplied the information for these maps. Bob Ryan, an experienced meteorologist, took over reporting on the weather in 1978 and remained there until 1980.
A Long-Time Weatherman on the Show Played Ronald McDonald Williard Scott, the show’s weatherman from 1980 until his retirement in 2010, initially portrayed Ronald McDonald on television from 1963 to 1966 as well as portraying Bozo the Clown and Commander Retro on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. In addition, Scott narrated a weekly program for NASA titled “The Space Story.” After becoming semi-retired in 1996, Willard Scott was replaced by current "Today" weatherman Al Roker.
During the 1950s, the Show Had a Mascot Because the show wasn’t delivering good ratings during its first season, producers decided to add a chimpanzee named J. Fred Muggs to the program to entice advertisers and increase viewership. It probably wasn’t an easy task since Muggs was known to be temperamental and difficult to handle. It was also rumored that anchor Dave Garroway was jealous and would spike Muggs’ orange juice so the chimp would act up.
The Show Used to Have A "Today Girl" Between the years of 1952 to 1964, there would be a female anchor that was known as a Today girl. The very first Today girl was Estelle Parsons, who would go to play Beverly Harris on the hit sitcom Roseanne. The Today girl would report on such topics as the weather, fashion, and cover other light-fare stories. Other notable women who filled this role are Lee Meriwether, Florence Henderson, and Barbara Walters. Walters was the last woman to hold this position, as she was promoted to co-host with Hugh Downs in 1966 after being with the show for 2 years.