The Today show usually opens its 8 a.m. hour, especially on a beautiful New York summer day like Thursday, with its hosts outside in Rockefeller Plaza amidst the signs and smiling fans. But when, as Matt Lauer reported on-air, "a man attempted to harm himself with a knife" out there, the wholesome foursome moved back inside and turned what was a scary sight off-camera into a happy-go-awkward impromptu segment, Joe Biden jokes and all.
Lauer said from behind the studio desk that the man "was controlled by our security team out there," and by that Lauer meant tackled by them in front of the studio windows.... (Warning: While this man may have been trying to do the worst to himself on national TV, this video contains no blood and the harmful act is largely covered up by railings.)
MediaBistro's Alex Weprin tweeted that fans on the plaza were quickly evacuated:
The Today anchors then moved to the inside part of their sprawling, inside-outside "set," in front of a screen used to block the major window that usually provides a backdrop onto the plaza. Lauer came back from commercial with a forthright message to viewers.
"So we're keeping that area clear for law enforcement out there right now and not getting out there to confuse the situation at all," Lauer said. But then came the extra-happy misdirection, with "What's Trending" — usually Natalie Morales's quick post-headlines segment for cat videos — turning into a four-person affair, with Al Roker opining on baseball games and Lauer offering his detailed thoughts on whether it was okay for Vice President Biden to make Strom Thurmond jokes at Sen. Frank Lautenberg's funeral:
The show must go on, we suppose, and if this isn't an example of the Today show being the most overproduced piece of television every day, we don't know what is. But the quick shift was very awkward and jarring if you saw behind the curtain: According to the user who uploaded the video on the plaza, SirAnduck on Twitter, the man had pulled out a box-cutter and attempted to slice his own wrists, and was then maced and tackled by police.
We'll keep this updated as the story develops.