My name is Brian Balthazar. I currently oversee the fourth hour of TODAY with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb. From time to time, you'll see me off to the side, chiming in about something coming up on the show that they've forgotten, or weighing in on something they're talking about. Even more often, I'm heard, not seen... laughing (or howling in shock!) during the chat. It's not because I want to be heard on television. (Although I'll admit I do enjoy a little face time!) But truthfully, it's that I really do find them that hilarious.
It's with a heavy dose of melancholy that I blog this week. As Kathie Lee and Hoda said today on the show, I'm leaving the show for new challenges. I've been so tremendously fortunate to work with such amazing people. This week I'll have the opportunity to reflect on them, and give you a little inside scoop at what goes on behind the scenes.
I've worn a lot of hats over my eight years with the company. I began at MSNBC before coming over to the network to work on TODAY. Somewhere in there, I squeezed in time as a features reporter, entertainment booker and producer, Internet writer, and, as anyone at NBC can be, impromptu tour guide.
In that time, I've had some pretty amazing experiences.
I spent hours getting full ape prosthetics and makeup to interview Charlton Heston on live television, travelled across the globe with Tom Cruise to cover his "War Of The Worlds" publicity tour, and had one-on-one time with a Vice President and Secretary of State. (One of them had clammy hands, but I'll never tell which one!) I've gone dancing with Charo, been Joan Rivers' matchmaker, and found myself rushing uptown with Art Garfunkel in my car. Another time, I was overseas, and found myself with a machine gun pointed at me. I find myself telling these stories over and over again! Partly because people often ask about them. And partly because I myself can't believe they happened to me. Maybe I retell them to remind myself!
You hear a lot on the show about "the TODAY family." I'm sure at times it can sound a little bit cliché. But honestly -- it's true. Many of us have been here for years. Like any family, sometimes we get grumpy, sometimes we're on edge from simply being tired. (I myself have never really gotten used to getting up early, despite being with the show for many years.) But more than anything, we're genuinely happy to be here each day. I think we all recognize that we're part of something special.
And now I'm on a wonderful ride with Kathie Lee and Hoda. Despite all the great experiences I've had over the years, standing off to the side while they do the show is honestly one of the most fun jobs I've had. Part of it is pride. I'm proud of them, and I'm proud to share a show with them.
So what do I do when I'm not standing around? I'm responsible for deciding what segments appear on the show. It's not an easy role. In addition to our opening chat, there are four segments a day... multiplied by five shows a week, and you have 20 segments a week to program. And while we do have our favorite recurring ones, (Joy Fit Club, Ambush Makeover,) you don't want to always be repeating yourself.
So we spend a lot of time trying to think of new things to bring to the viewer, or ways to reinvent themes that people are always interested in. (Money, Fashion, Health.) You can never please everyone, but I've tried to make it entertaining and informative.
Sometimes, the day before a show, a segment I have booked looks like it might end up being boring, or uninteresting. Then, the next day, Kathie Lee and Hoda have turned into something fun or far more interesting than I ever could have imagined. And, if we're being honest, not all segments work out exactly as we hope they will! When you're doing a live show every day, it stands to reason that not every one will be perfect. If we're on the air and a segment ends up being boring, we usually know it right away. On a few occasions, I've been known to proclaim, "I just found the cure for insomnia." But we all try very hard to avoid those moments!
When people find out I work on the TODAY show, they usually ask a lot of the same questions, and I love to answer them. First, they want to know what one of the hosts "is really like." (Don't be disappointed when I say I truly enjoy each one of them!) Then, they want to know what interesting people I have met, and what funny things have happened behind the scenes.
This week I plan to list some of my favorite moments while working here... some you might find funny, some you might find sad, but I hope you'll find them interesting!
In the meantime, feel free to post here what you want to know.