‘Today’ celebrates


“Today’s” 55th-anniversary celebration this week wasn’t a unanimous decision within NBC.

“Some felt we should wait until the 60th,” “Today” boss Jim Bell acknowledges. “I think once you hit 50, you’re on solid ground with zeroes and fives to look back. I don’t think anybody would consider 15 or 35.”

At first, “Today” was going to pull out all the stops, as it did for the show’s 50th. Then cooler heads prevailed.

“It’s more a tip of the cap than a standing ovation,” Bell says. “It’s not really over the top. We’re not patting ourselves on the back for the whole show.”

Of course not. When you’ve got an 11-year winning streak, who needs prolific pats? (Well, except for the big wet kiss to coanchor Matt Lauer Friday for his 10th anniversary.)

“We’re a little bit in uncharted waters,” Bell says. “How many programs have to face this kind of dilemma? As dilemmas go, it’s one everybody should have.”

Each day for a portion of the 8 a.m. hour, the “Today” set will be replaced by a computer-generated virtual set representing a different decade.

It began Monday with Meredith Vieira and Lauer on a “50s-era set that included some real pieces from the time. (“Today” launched Jan. 14, 1952, with Dave Garroway.) Tuesday, it’s the “60s, followed by the “70s Wednesday, the “80s Thursday, and the “90s Friday.

Former anchors Bryant Gumbel, Jane Pauley, Tom Brokaw, Barbara Walters and Hugh Downs all taped tributes to air this week. Nothing from Katie Couric, but the CBS anchor did one for Lauer’s lovefest.

As for the timing of this week’s festivities, on the heels of Lauer’s, Bell labels it “just a wonderful, happy coincidence.”

P.S. Pop quiz: 50 is gold, 60 is diamond. What’s the 55th anniversary?

“Denim?” asks Bell. “Tin? Crystal?”

None of the above, Jimbo. Try emerald.

Eagles rule. The Eagles’ last-second victory over the Giants in the NFC wild-card playoff at the Linc Sunday scored monster numbers for Fox29.

The game, won by David Akers’ field goal with time running out, averaged a whopping 44.2 rating and 63 percent audience share from 4:45 to 8 p.m., according to Nielsen Media Research. (Each rating point equals 29,410 homes.)

That translates to about 2.3 million total viewers, making it the most-watched Eagles game of the season in our town. The Birds-Cowboys drew 2.0 million viewers on Oct. 8.

During the final 15 minutes Sunday, the game soared to a 49.7 rating/65 share.

Woodruff reports. In his first on-air report since being severely injured by a roadside bomb in Iraq last January, ABC anchor Bob Woodruff will recount his ordeal Feb. 27 in an hour-long special.

Through interviews with the ABC News team and soldiers who were with him on patrol, as well as with the military and civilian medical teams who saved his life, Woodruff will trace his journey from the battlefield in Iraq to Germany and finally home to the U.S.

As part of “To Iraq and Back: Bob Woodruff Reports,” Woodruff and his wife, Lee, will return to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda for the first time since his six-week stay there. He’ll report on young soldiers learning to carry on despite life-altering injuries.

Short stuff. Rocker Dave Matthews will pop up on Fox’s “House” in March as a musical savant who begins to suffer seizures. Matthews’ “Some Devil” was heard in an episode of “House” in “05. … Rob Lowe’s role as conservative Sen. Robert McCallister will continue through the season on ABC’s “Brothers & Sisters.” Originally, he was to have guest-starred in just a few episodes. … Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines: MSNBC will carry exclusive live coverage of the South Carolina Democratic Party’s presidential debate April 26 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The event also will be streamed live on MSNBC.com.

(c) 2007, The Philadelphia Inquirer.

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AP-NY-01-08-07 1938EST