Katie Couric’s Good Morning America Hosting Stint: Part Perky, Part Pukey

How will she do against Sarah Palin in the morning-TV war?

She laughed. She danced. She cracked wise. What’s not to love? If you’re a Katie Couric fan, nothing. But if you’re not, her guest-hosting stint on Good Morning America today was nothing more than a self-serving promotional reel designed to help GMA dethrone No. 1 Today.

Regardless, Day 1 of Couric’s week-long visit came off without a hitch. Despite a six-year absence from the a.m. game, she seamlessly picked up where she had left off at Today, displaying the goofy humor and warmth that made her a star.

Nothing goofy or warm about the morning-TV wars, however. GMA is only 137,000 viewers behind Today, according to the latest weekly Nielsen ratings, and a Couric bump could help GMA end her alma mater’s 16-year reign.

ABC’s massive promotion for Couric did not go unnoticed by NBC. Late last week, the Comcast network hyped a Monday appearance of a “legend” on Today. (Turned out to be former cohost Meredith Vieira. I’m a big fan, but she hardly qualifies as legendary.)

Today landed a bigger “get” for tomorrow: Sarah Palin will guest host. Going head-to-head with Couric could mean payback time for Palin. For the memory impaired, Couric, then with CBS, derailed the GOP vice-presidential candidate in ’08 by asking her what newspapers she read.

The nerve.

ABC made sure Couric was treated like royalty by her colleagues. Co-host George Stephanopoulos was positively giddy, and all the correspondents began their shots with a warm welcome. Shockingly, the fact that Couric’s daytime talk show launches on ABC in the fall was not even mentioned.

Judging by Couric’s taped bits, one would not know that she had been anchor and managing editor of CBS Evening News for five years. Good move.

In one piece, she ran around her apartment in her jammies and gulped endless cups of coffee in order to stay awake for her return to morning TV. In another, her driver mistakenly drove her to NBC before heading to ABC’s Times Square location. Harmless stuff, right?

Less harmless was Couric’s love fest with ABC’s hit Dancing With the Stars, now in Week 3. In yet another pre-taped segment, she camped around backstage with host Tom Bergeron; lusted for macho contestant William Levy; and showed off some fancy footwork—and her shapely legs—with contestant Derek Hough, including a move called “the pretzel” from her college days.

Yes, I know that all the morning shows do these masturbatory so-called “stories.” In Couric’s case, the low point came when she asked DWTS judge Len Goodman why he thought the show was so popular. Like Rick Santorum, I wanted to puke.

Tellingly, Couric did not interview the day’s marquee political guests, President Bill Clinton and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, rumored to be a possible Romney running mate.

In fact, the closest Couric came to hard news was moderating a contentious debate between ABC’s Dan Abrams and HLN’s Nancy Grace about the Susan Powell case. “I’m glad I didn’t have to use my whistle,” Couric said, referencing the coaches’ whistle she revealed in the opening segment.

To GMA’s credit, there was nary a mention of Couric’s talk show. Then again, the week is young. I trust they’ll find airspace between all those DWTS segments.