A Cleansing Fire Is Set to Rip Through The Today Show: Who's Gonna Get Burned?S

It's no secret that right now, Today is in a tailspin. Once viewed as a cup of Earl Grey in TV form, the show hast lately earned a reputation as a scalding cauldron of poison. The New York Times reports that ratings have dropped about 20 percent since the show took Ann Curry out behind a shed and shot her last June. Unholy god Matt Lauer has become so unpopular—almost overnight—that NBC is reportedly considering replacing him with Anderson Cooper before his rumored $25 million contract expires in 2014. (According to Deadline, Lauer got wind of NBC's plans and phoned Cooper personally to tell him he disapproved of the network's decision, because he is a divabitch.)

Viewers gripe that Today has become "boring," its stories "trivial." They say that, compared to the Technicolor fun time pirates at the helm of Good Morning America, NBC's anchors lack chemistry.

They're right. Today is a mess. Today is a green balloon filled with concrete. A box of wet firecrackers. An unpopular kid's birthday that no one wanted to attend and now everyone's stuck there until their moms pick them up at 4 o'clock.

But if you're not watching The Today Show, you are missing out on the most compelling reality trainwreck on television.

Each morning, we tune in to squirm as the co-hosts slight one another in manners discreet and not. We watch closely for that stomach churning 3-second window, between when a pre-taped segment is introduced and the moment it starts to play, during which time host Savannah Guthrie stares directly into the camera with blank, nervous fear.

We watch because every once in a while something goes horribly wrong. A quintuplet won't stop screaming. A guest magician's hands won't stop shaking. Al Roker poops his pants.

Today is for voyeurs.

But now, a shake-up looms. The show's set will get a "brighter, warmer" makeover this summer, and rumors have reached a fever pitch that the cast is in for a revamp too.

Assembled from a combination of rumors, recent episode rosters, and viewer opinions, here's our prediction for what Today will look like tomorrow:

Matt Lauer: Out

A Cleansing Fire Is Set to Rip Through The Today Show: Who's Gonna Get Burned?

The greatest and most imminent change is that Matt Lauer will be axed—by 2014 at the latest. He's in such a freefall, he even sent a passive aggressive apology tweet to a former intern who said he wasn't nice on Twitter earlier this week.

In the words of one insider quoted by the Times, "Matt's now in the same situation now as Ann Curry." Now, the scramble is on to find him a replacement.

Willie Geist is the cohost of Today's third hour and acts as a stand-in for Lauer when Lauer is absent. Though he also appears as co-host on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Geist isn't, well, famous enough to anchor the show in the absence of Lauer, who has worked on Today for two decades. He's also either a little too smart or a little too dumb for the show, though it's not clear which. It's as if he and the other anchors exist on opposite sides of a pane of glass. Is he processing information on a time delay, or has he already jumped ahead?

Anderson Cooper and Meet the Press' David Gregory have both been tossed out as possible replacements for Lauer, which suggests it is very important to NBC that the new anchor have hair spun out of fine silver cobwebs. A lot of viewers have expressed a preference for Lester Holt, currently marooned on the desolate island of Today's weekend edition, though a promotion for him seems unlikely.

Savannah Guthrie: In

A Cleansing Fire Is Set to Rip Through The Today Show: Who's Gonna Get Burned?

There's been no talk of replacing Savannah Guthrie, who was brought on as Ann Curry's replacement in 2012. She's big and goofy and a good sport about the other anchors' endless pranks on her. She's also got a real knack for keeping the show's inane segments moving. One time her new iPhone started ringing right before a segment and she threw it under the couch and hoped that no one would notice but, of course, everyone noticed and Savannah was embarrassed. It's just hard not to like her.

Natalie Morales: Out

A Cleansing Fire Is Set to Rip Through The Today Show: Who's Gonna Get Burned?

When it became clear last year that Ann's seat would soon be vacated, there was a lot of speculation over whether the job would go to Savannah Guthrie, who joined the show in 2011, or Natalie Morales, who had been working for Today since 2006. Adding a layer of drama to the proceedings were persistent rumors that Morales and Lauer had had an affair while covering the Winter Olympics in Torino. (There's even a particularly incredible rumor that Lauer is the father of one of Morales' sons.) Amidst reports that Lauer's wife, Annette was threatening to divorce her husband if Morales was given the job as co-anchor, the promotion went to Guthrie. It's hard to see third-hour co-host as a permanent gig for Morales, and if producers are looking to do a drastic staff overhaul, she'd be easier to chuck than the loveable Savannah.

Tamron Hall: In

A Cleansing Fire Is Set to Rip Through The Today Show: Who's Gonna Get Burned?

Earlier this month, there were reports that NBC was looking to add former first lady of California Maria Shriver (who looks almost identical to Natalie Morales) to the show, but that she refused because she is already super rich and just didn't feel like doing it. We've all been there.

Enter, Tamron Hall.

Tamron Hall is a human party. She's pretty; she's got a short, kicky haircut, and she generates instant, crackling chemistry with anyone who wanders into her orbit. You probably wouldn't want Tamron Hall driving your car, but you'd love to have her on the road trip. She peps everyone up. If added to the regular roster—this week she's in subbing for Morales—Hall would be the first African American woman to co-host Today, which could give the show some much-needed positive press.

Al Roker: In, until he dies or you do

A Cleansing Fire Is Set to Rip Through The Today Show: Who's Gonna Get Burned?

While Matt Lauer gets a bad rap for ruling Today with an iron first, Al Roker is to the morning show what Varys the eunuch is to Game of Thrones. He may not have quite as much pull as Matt Lauer, but as the fan-favorite token "nice guy," he's got a lot of influence. Remember in August when he obviously-but-not-technically said that Matt Lauer threw Ann Curry under the bus? You don't work your way up from "weatherman" to "dominating presence in 50% of segments" by keeping your mouth shut.

Roker's one weakness is his temper, which flares up at awkward and surprising moments—often during Take Three, a 9 a.m. segment in which the co-hosts spend a few minutes casually chatting about "hot topics." (Like, Tamron will introduce a silly study that found that [X], and all of a sudden Al is unbelievably furious.) He also starts clown fights on Twitter. But as long as he's able to come across as jolly most of the time, it's hard to see Today getting rid of him. Ever.

[NYT // Deadline // Matt Lauer tweet h/t FTV Live // Art by Jim Cooke / Images via Getty]