Matt Lauer, Ryan Seacrest confront “Today Show” rumors

There was a giant elephant on the set of the Today Show this morning, and Matt Lauer and Ryan Seacrest finally got together publicly to talk about it. For those not paying attention, there have been major rumors circulating that the American Idol host could be next in line to replace the morning show anchor should he not renew his expiring contract this year.

It should be noted upfront that Lauer and Seacrest are social outside of their respective jobs, so much of the interview came across as two buddies having a conversation over a beer. And even though laughter reined throughout the “interview,” there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered about whether Seacrest had been approached by NBC about doing the Today Show and — more importantly — whether he would be interested.

Here’s how the whole thing went down, with Lauer kicking it off with a loaded question that prompted a hardy laugh from those on the set:

Lauer: “With all you’ve got going on right now, where you see yourself in five years?”

Seacrest: “Hopefully balancing everything that I’ve been able to build and doing a good job at it.”

Lauer: “You’ve made some headlines lately. A lot of stories of been written about you, and my name has been involved in some of them as well… a lot of those stories deal with this idea that you could eventually take this job; so I’m going to deal with this way I would do with anybody I’m interviewing, and I’m going to ask direct questions: What kind of conversations have you had with NBC about joining the Today Show?”

Seacrest: “Oh, they didn’t tell you? (laughter) I’ve worked with E! Network for years, and NBC Universal and E! are the same family. The plan is for me to join the NBC family and to continue to have a roll at E! Network. The first assignment will be to join the primetime team for the Olympics on NBC.”

Lauer: “You didn’t answer the question. (laughter) The question was what conversations have you had with NBC officials about joining this program, and I want names and dates. (more laughter)

[Ryan joked that he had been approached about doing weather.]

Lauer: “Do you see yourself doing a job like this?”

Seacrest: “You know, I don’t know.  I see you doing this for as long as you want to, so maybe the question is how long will you be on the Today Show?” (laughter)

Lauer: “Well funny you mention that…”

Seacrest: “Fans, myself included, think you should be here for years to come.”

Lauer: “Thank you. I should say real quickly that I think you’d be great at this job; and secondly, Ryan and I are friendly, we’ve talked about this, we’ve  joked about this, there is no tension here.”

Seacrest: “There’s no tension. As a matter of fact, when the story came out, you and I spoke and had dinner right after that. There’s nobody better than you.”

Lauer: “Well, you’re very nice. By the way, I bought dinner, which I thought was completely  inappropriate.” (laughter)

So there you have it. Nothing was really resolved, nor will it be until Lauer and NBC work out his contract. And for all we know, NBC execs could be using Seacrest as a negotiating ploy to keep Lauer on board its top-rated morning show intact. But if nothing else, we got to see the two parties address the rumors face to face. And that, folks, is why nothing beats live television.

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© 2012 NBCUniversal, Inc. Credit: Peter Kramer/NBC

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