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Will Katie Couric’s Morning Return Give Rise to GMA?

ABC went dancing with its star today, and she didn’t miss a step.

Katie Couric’s guest-hosting stint on ‘Good Morning America’ came off with nary a hiccup. Despite a six-year absence from the a.m. game, she seamlessly picked up where she left off at “Today,” displaying the goofy humor and warmth that made her a star.

She laughed. She danced. She cracked wise. What’s not to love?

Did we say love? Like a shark at a shipwreck, “GMA” is moving in for the kill against “Today.” With only 137,000 viewers separating them, according to the latest Nielsen ratings, “GMA” is counting on a week of Couric to end her alma mater’s 16-year dominance.

In response to ABC’s massive promotion, “Today” announced last week that Monday’s show would feature a “legend.” (I’m a big Meredith Vieria fan, but she hardly fits the category.) Sarah Palin guest hosts tomorrow; irony abounds. It was Couric, then with CBS, who derailed Palin in ’08 by asking the vice-presidential candidate what newspapers she read.

ABC made sure Couric’s visit was treated by her colleagues like a coronation. Her co-hosts were positively giddy, and every correspondent welcomed her. At 7:21 a.m., she told an adoring George Stephanopoulos that she was “starting to relax.”

Couric did several taped bits about her return to morning TV, beginning with one in which she ran around her apartment in her jammies and drank endless cups of coffee to stay awake for her debut. In another, her driver mistakenly took her to NBC before heading to ABC’s Times Square studio.

The most blatant, self-serving skit revolved around Couric’s love fest with ABC’s hit “DWTS,” now in Week 3. She camped around backstage with host Tom Bergeron. She lusted for mucho-macho

contestant William Levy. She showed off some fancy footwork – and her shapely legs — with contestant Derek Hough, including a college move she called ‘the pretzel.’

That one made me thirsty.

“There’s not enough antiperspirant to prepare me for that job,” she joked. “If I were on this season, I’d be right next to Martina.” (Tennis legend Martina Navratilova and pro dancer Tony Dovolani were the first couple booted on Season 14.)

The low point was when Couric asked ‘DWTS’ judge Len Goodman why he thought the show was so popular. Like Rick Santorum, I wanted to puke.

Interesting to note that Couric did not interview the day’s marquee political guests, former President Bill Clinton and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, rumored to be a possible Romney running mate. Jake Tapper and Stephanopoulos handled those segments, respectively.

In fact, the closest Couric came to genuine hard news was in moderating a contentious debate between ABC legal analyst 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.

Throughout the two-hour broadcast, about the only thing ‘GMA’ didn’t hype was Couric’s new daytime talk show, which launches on ABC in the fall.

Then again, the week is young. I trust they’ll find airspace between all the ‘DWTS’ segments.

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