While I work at a TV station that carries NBC programming, I’m not going to join in the chorus of critics calling for Brian Williams’ dismissal from NBC News. He already has plenty of critics.
Instead, let’s play everyone’s favorite game of supposition – What If?
If NBC News and Brian Williams part ways after recent controversy, what’s next for Brian? Let’s look at a few possibilities.
\ Going against Lou Grant’s advice by becoming a “quizzzzzmaster”. Seriously, longtime “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek has hinted retirement from the long-running quiz show in recent years. The Canadian native is under contract until next year. Williams was reportedly considered to be the next host as early as mid-March of 2013. Other possible successors in those same reports included Matt Lauer, Anderson Cooper and Dan Patrick, who’s hosting a weekly all-sports version of “Jeopardy!” seen on the online channel Crackle.
Juggling a daily, and still high-rated, newscast along with reading answers and ruling on whether or not players have buzzed in with the right questions might be a challenge. “Jeopardy!” has taped in southern California since 1978 (including a brief network revival on NBC; current syndicated version has been on since 1984); “NBC Nightly News” airs from New York City unless developments require the anchor to broadcast elsewhere.
But, if Williams is freed of NBC News responsibility, Trebek officially calls it a career upon the end of his current deal and the powers-that-be at “Jeopardy!” and Williams can reach an agreement, then it’s simple for Williams. Relocate from the east coast to the west coast and begin a new career in game shows.
\ Go from NBC News to NBC Sports. A Doug’s Place flashback is in order. In 1999, Williams hosted pre- and post-race coverage of the then NASCAR Winston Cup Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The network would later cover the latter halves of the next few seasons (Fox and NBC would take turns on the Daytona races; when one covered the Daytona 500 in February, the other covered what longtime fans still call the Firecracker 400 in July). Any further involvement from Williams was limited as a fan in the stands, inside the track with a pit pass or riding shotgun with analyst Wally Dallenbach for the “Wally’s World” segment.
NBC will return to covering NASCAR racing later this year. Williams is an avid fan. Back in ’99, the powers-that-be at NBC Sports asked him to help out in the coverage while the then NBC News president told Williams, “Knock yourself out, have a great time.” Assuming Williams remains in touch with the Earnhardts, the Jarretts, the Pettys and other prominent NASCAR people, there should be no problem here.
\ Take the Dan Rather route and host a weekly news program on a cable/satellite network. Okay, by now, the less said of the way Rather and CBS parted company the better. Not long after this public divorce, Rather started a weekly investigative news program on what was then HDNet.
The network has since changed focus towards entertainment and pop culture while renaming itself AXStv (pronounced “Access Teevee”). Rather’s program, eventually, went from investigative to show biz interviews. His guests have included Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Dolly Parton and even “Weird Al” Yankovic.
There are more possibilities I could list here. But the point is this. Well-known broadcasters do find a way of making a comeback after suffering a setback – especially if a particular broadcaster helped create his or her own setback. Rather’s done it. So have people in the sports world such as Jim Rome and Marv Albert.
Williams, as of this writing, is taking a leave of absence from “Nightly News”. If Friday, February 6th, marked his final time ever anchoring the broadcast, fear not. He’ll land somewhere else.
Even with the investigation in progress that could spell the end of his days in network news, Williams is still a brilliant broadcaster with a sharp sense of humor. Call his appearances on “Saturday Night Live”, “The Tonight Show”, etc., bad ideas if you must. Just remember Walter Cronkite had a guest starring role as himself in an episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” – the same series that, in another episode, Grant questioned Ted Baxter’s possible career change from news anchor to “quizzzzzmaster”.