I tuned into "Today" to see how the show would say goodbye to Gene Shalit, who retired yesterday after occupying his "Critic's Corner" there for 41 years. (Did he time his exit to escape reviewing "Morning Glory?") In an era of fractured and volatile workplaces, it was sweet to see so many "Today" personalities, past and present, including Jane Pauley, Tom Brokaw, and Katie Couric, express the pleasure they took in a colleague's company. Shalit is a pop icon, so I understand why they emphasized Shalit's personality, from what some called his Muppet-like look (I think he looks more like Groucho, Chico and Harpo rolled into one), to his penchant for the kind of fun that brightens up an office. (He nicknamed Bryant Gumbel "Gumbo" -- and Gumbel called him "Green Salad.")

Still, did the segment have to devote more time to his celebrity interviews and his membership in the "Today" clan than it did to his reviews? After four decades, wouldn't it have been nice to learn what kinds of movies he championed over the years, and which he thought were bankrupt or destructive? And will the "Today" show replace him? Or will the post of morning-show movie critic become a thing of the past?

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I have never been a constant viewer of 'Today,' so I mostly know Shalit as a gleefully incorrigible punster who says things like "Ishtar...Ishtarrible." Did people who watched the show through the Shalit years follow his recommendations or simply enjoy him as a performer? (Steven Spielberg recorded a video message saying that Shalit is "the audience" in all of us. Does that just mean he is a critical populist?)

Matt Lauer told the audience that Shalit's modesty prevented him from appearing at this tribute to him. Shalit must agree with the Woody Allen quote that Shalit put near the end of one of his anthologies, "Great Hollywood Wit": "Someone once asked me if my dream was to live on in the hearts of my people, and I said I would like to live on in my apartment."

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