Christmas came early for me this year—on Tuesday, December 2 at 2 pm to be exact, when I attended a taping of The Meredith Vieira Show at the famed 30 Rock in Manhattan with my sister and daughter. Little did we know that “our” show would be aired as the kickoff to an “Ultimate Gift Guide” week showcasing holiday presents. But more about that later.
First, in case you’ve been living under a rock, Westchester resident Meredith Vieira is one super-talented—and super-busy—celeb. Here at Westchester Magazine, she holds a special place in our hearts, as she appeared on the cover of our premier issue in January 2001—almost five years before her gig as co-anchor of Today. Prior to Today she had been a moderator on ABC’s The View, chatting about events of the day in real time. The 14-time Emmy Award winner also served as host of the nationally syndicated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire for a whopping 11 seasons (a total of 2,000 episodes). And there’s lots more, including stints covering the Olympics, primetime hour special features, and even her own YouTube channel. There seems to be nothing that she can’t do when it comes to TV and related media. She works incredibly hard, and if my modest experience as an audience member at her new show is any indication, she deserves all her success and more.
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From left: Meredith Vieira, freelance writer Laurie Yarnell with daughter Nikki Yarnell and sister Randy Metzger following the taping of an episode of The Meredith Vieira Show in Manhattan.
Mention Vieira to almost any sampling of women and chances are you’ll hear something like “Oh I love her!” A friend told me she bumped into Vieira in a local supermarket, where Vieira shook my friend’s hand and introduced herself as if no one would know who she was. In person and on set, Vieira comes across as the cool, popular girl who is actually nice to everyone. Smart, witty, and warm, you can’t help but like her—and be a tad envious of her real life BFFs. Not only is she unfailingly cheerful—even after taping several promos after the show wraps, she remains fresh and friendly, as if there were nothing else she’d rather be doing than sending a shout out to her viewers in Akron. Plus, she’s a hugger: she hugs all her guests. Yes, even me when I met up with her after the taping. Oh, and for the record, Vieira looks great in skinny jeans and sky-high stilettos while being the ultimate pro on camera and off.
If you’ve never been to a taping of a TV show, this is one you’d really have a ball at—as did all three in our normally fuss-prone group. Not only are the segments fun—our show featured Dancing With the Stars fave Maksim Chmerkovskiyï»¿ inside a giant blowup snow globe, actor Dean Cain dishing on how Brooke Shields lost her virginity to him, and a “worst parents on the dance floor” contest, in addition to the great “gifts for your significant other” segment—the place is one big party for audience members. Before the show starts, and during all the commercial breaks between segments, comic Tracy Locke races among the seats, throwing out quick quips along with Smarties and Dum Dum lollipops to those correctly answering trivia questions. She also organizes games and dance contests between the audience members. One thing we were all amazed by was how much care is taken in seating the audience; you are shown to specific seats according to criteria which appeared to be 1) attractive people (they were placed prominently), and 2) diverse looks, ages, and ethnicities. Want to be shown on camera? Wear a bright colored solid top, like red or purple.
No, we didn’t drive home any new cars à la Oprah but (spoiler alert) we did come home with some uber-cool swag, like a “simulated” (fake, to you and me) diamond necklace worth $600, and online links and promo codes for customized ear phones, naughty wear from Hanky Panky, exercise videos, and even a hipster-type hat. Sweet. But the best souvenir? Spending an afternoon laughing with my peeps, getting a peak into how a TV show gets made (hint: lots of people with lots of cameras and cables), and spending some quality time with my new fantasy BFF, Meredith V.
Catch the show on NBC’s Channel 4, weekdays at 2 pm; for tickets, visit meredithvieirashow.com.