Longtime Today Show host and media celebrity Kathy Lee Gifford announced this morning that she will be leaving the flagship NBC program to pursue “exciting new projects” that she “couldn’t talk about yet.” The emotional announcement was made with her co-host of a decade, Hoda Kotb, and came as a surprise given how widely credited the two women have been in building the program’s fourth hour, largely from scratch.
Sources close to the show speculate that Gifford is spearheading a top-secret remake of NBC’s The Golden Girls — serving as Executive Producer and staring in its lead role of Dorothy. Details haven’t been finalized, but Gifford has impressed network executives with her appeal to women viewers and ability to project an easy, feel-good, pro-women tone — something that former Today host Megyn Kelly sometimes strained to do.
That demographic is of central importance to the network’s advertisers, who would jump at an opportunity to back heartwarming family-friendly comedy in primetime.
The Golden Girls originally aired on NBC from September 14, 1985, to May 9, 1992, with a total of 180 half-hour episodes spanning seven seasons. The show starred Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty as four older women who share a home in Miami, Florida.
The Golden Girls received critical acclaim throughout most of its run and won several awards including the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series twice. It also won three Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series. The series ranked among the top ten highest-rated programs for six of its seven seasons.
It’s become widely known over the years on Today that Gifford is a friend of Dolly Parton, Jane Fonda, and Lilly Tomlin — whom industry observers speculate would be first in line for the coveted roles.
Gifford could not be reached for comment.