Morning TV hosts get extreme for ratings

Other News Materials 24 February 2008 22:15 (UTC +04:00)

( AP )- Ann Curry bungee-jumps off a bridge in England on live television, screaming in exhilaration and fear. Chris Cuomo kisses the pavement after leaping off a casino roof while tethered to safety cables. And Meredith Vieira really did go jump in a lake. In Vermont. In February.

What's going on here? Since when did a willingness to perform death-defying acts join glib interviewing skills and an ability to appear empathetic on demand as requirements for a job in morning television?

Cuomo, ABC's "Good Morning America" newsman, looked like he'd rather have been anywhere else as he waited to jump off the Trump Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City last week. Afghanistan in the winter? Sure. Anything!

His colleagues watched from the comfort of their Times Square studio, even taking a call with advice from drowsy magician David Blaine.

Keep your eyes on the horizon, he said. Pretend you're an eagle. Don't forget to breathe.

Thanks, Dave.

Cuomo kept his hands by his head in the universal gesture of horror as he plunged. When the cables stopped him just short of the ground, he rose his arms triumphantly.

"I've never felt anything like that," he said, "and hopefully I'll never feel anything like it again."

There was less obvious fear on Vieira's face as she prepared to run into Lake Champlain in Burlington during the "Today" show's jaunt to Vermont last week. She wasn't alone; it was the annual Penguin Plunge benefiting the Special Olympics, and in that spirit Vieira wore a penguin hat. Ice chunks floated in the 33-degree water.

She ran in about waist-deep then dipped her head in. To prove her toughness, she dipped again while heading toward shore.

"Next year