Scott is less concerned about the commercialization of young people's programming than about its coarsening. He says he has sampled the controversial MTV series Skins, which depicts sex and profanity among preteens. He says, "It is a long way from Skins to Miss Frances," of Miss Frances' Ding Dong School, which first aired on NBC in 1952. Deploring the drugs ingested on the MTV series, Scott recalls, "We had ice cream after the show."
This grandfather of texting teenagers is concerned that "nobody actually talks to anybody anymore. People in cubicles next to each other, they e-mail each other." So, any chance he has, Scott gets out and talks to people. This week, he was in Peoria, Ill., for Groundhog Day. "They have Gertie, who they are trying to compete with Punxsutawney Phil." If anyone can give Gertie a paw-up, it's Weatherman Willard.
Describing himself as semiretired, Scott still hosts his Today segments from a studio in Washington, D.C., or from Fort Myers, Fla., near his Sanibel Island cottage. As viewers know, age counts in earning his birthday well wishes. "When I started in 1983 occasionally you would get someone 101 or 102. Now, 100 hardly gets you on the show; it's more like 110."
From kiddie clown to centenarian celebrator, Scott says his career has been "one fluke after another." Still, he draws this connection between Bozo and the Today show.
"There is something endearing about the weatherman," he says. "And there is something endearing about kid shows." And, yes, there is something endearing about Willard Scott.
Jack Curry, a former editor at USA Today and TV Guide, is a freelance writer and editor and serves on the editorial board of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, specializing in corporate philanthropy and the media.