'Today' Lights Up Your Life with Puff Piece on Replacing Bulbs

     In the second installment of its “Today Goes Green” series telling you how to live your life, NBC’s “Today” show on January 23 promoted compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs), an efficient light bulb meant to replace traditional incandescent bulbs.

     But like the first installment, on carpooling, which aired January 22, this “small step we can all take to help Mother Earth” is good enough for the average American viewer, but maybe not for the show’s hosts.

     Home Depot employee “Tom” told host Meredith Vieira the bulbs’ pros. While they are significantly more expensive than traditional bulbs, CFLs use less energy and are supposed to last longer, a combination that hypothetically brings down energy bills. A giddy Vieira told Tom he was “a bright bulb … either way, incandescent or CFL.” Cheesy light bulb pun count: 1.

     But the bulbs also contain small amounts of mercury, a toxic metal that requires they be disposed of “properly.” Ann Curry noted at the very end of the segment that consumers can’t – or rather, shouldn’t – just toss old bulbs in the trash, and Vieira said Home Depot will dispose of them if you take them back when they’re done. How convenient!

     Vieira also answered a certain annoying age-old question by replacing one of the old bulbs in her house with a CFL – all by herself! Cheesy light bulb pun count: 2. She triumphantly declared, “Let there be light.” Cheesy light bulb pun count: 3.

     NBC editors celebrated Vieira’s victory over the complicated task with a clip of Debby Boone’s “You Light Up My Life.” Cheesy light bulb pun count: 4.

     But one was enough to illustrate the point. When teased by Matt Lauer, who asked, “Did you change more than that one?” Vieira said, “One at a time.”

     She didn’t say whether she’d changed out her entire house’s light sources – the segment showed her purchasing a four-pack – but Vieira declared that the bulbs “work and they’re wonderful. Do your part.”

     The energy bill recently signed into law effectively institutes a ban on incandescent bulbs, phasing them out by 2020. Vieira, however, poetically described the strong-arm government mandate as Congress “lighting the way for anyone still reluctant to try the new bulbs.” Cheesy light bulb pun count: 5.

     Vieira neglected to mention that GE, which owns NBC and the “Today” show, is a major manufacturer of light bulbs, including CFLs. The Home Depot field trip also showed the N:vision brand, but the bulbs Vieira gave to her co-hosts were branded with the GE logo. “Today” ignored the standard practice of disclosing the financial connection.