Gene Shalit, who has been a principal personality on NBC’s “Today” program since 1970, announced that he’s leaving the program and NBC, effective Thursday (11/11). He is not, however, retiring.
In a playful press release, Shalit said he is not leaving to spend more time with his family or pursue other opportunities – the clichéd phrases often seen in such announcements. “It’s enough already,” he said. “But I just changed my mind, I will pursue other opportunities.”
Shalit, who is 85, didn’t offer any details of his future plans, but said they embrace publishing, the Internet, radio, and commercials.
His 40 years on Today constitute one of the longest continuous runs by an individual on a single daily network program in the history of television.
On Thursday Today will broadcast a retrospective salute to Shalit’s work over the decades, including film reviews, and interviews with the world’s famous.
Shalit was the senior film critic for Look Magazine starting in 1968; wrote the “What’s Happening” column in the Ladies’ Home Journal; and for 13 years wrote and broadcast a daily essay called “Man About Anything” on the NBC Radio Network.
He has appeared with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in Boston’s Symphony Hall and at Tanglewood; performed with his bassoon in Lincoln Center with the famous “Bassoon Monsoon”; and conducted the Pittsburg Symphony Orchestra in a full program of classical music. “In none of these venues was he ever invited back,” the press release noted.
RBR-TVBR observation: Would someone with such a unique appearance – that bushy mustache and wild mop of hair – ever make it onto network television today? If the answer is no, that is sad for our business. For Gene Shalit is truly a unique, interesting and entertaining personality. And talk about being recognizable. We will never forget back in the 1980s looking up from our desk at the Associated Press in New York to see Shalit talking to the receptionist. We never knew why he was there or who he went to see. (It wasn’t us.) But there was absolutely no doubt from 15-20 feet away that it was Gene Shalit standing there. No one else looks like him – and isn’t that part of what creating a TV personality is about?