NEW YORK • The bosses at NBC are not waltzing around the issue - Megyn Kelly's 9am slot of the Today show needs a ratings boost after a less-than-stellar month on the air.
Last Thursday, Hoda Kotb, the ever-upbeat popular Today host from another hour, appeared as a guest. They chatted. They danced. They tried to get the audience on its feet dancing too.
Critics were not impressed.
"I've never been so embarrassed," tweeted BuzzFeed News' correspondent Kate Aurthur.
"I feel nothing but second-hand embarrassment for Megyn Kelly," chimed in media critic Ian Miles Cheong. Entertainment portal Vulture called the clip "22 nearly unbearable seconds".
Last year, she was a rising star on Fox News, earning national headlines for her dogged questioning of presidential candidate Donald Trump. But her short tenure on NBC's Megyn Kelly Today continues to be challenging for her and the network. The show premiered on Sept 25 and its ratings continue to tank.
The fallout is so worrisome to the network that other Today hosts have begun visiting Kelly's show as if on a rescue mission, according to the trade publications.
I’m not booking anyone on her show. I haven’t pitched anyone even from right out the gate. The buzz that is out there is so bad.
AN UNNAMED PUBLICIST told Variety trade publication, on the reaction to host Megyn Kelly’s show on NBC
Matt Lauer, Al Roker and Savannah Guthrie all recently appeared.
It could be "a strategic way to familiarise viewers with faces they already know and boost viewership", according to Variety.
Her ratings are not even close to those of her predecessors, Tamron Hall and Roker, during the same time slot last year.
During her debut week, Kelly's show was down 12 per cent in total viewership from that time slot last year. The second week brought in 24 per cent fewer viewers and the third week saw a 23 per cent smaller audience, according to Nielsen data.
Meanwhile, the show's biggest direct competitor, ABC's Live With Kelly And Ryan - hosted by Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest - has a healthy lead.
The ABC programme drew 14 per cent more viewers than Kelly's during her first week and a robust 34 per cent more during her second, according to Nielsen data.
Kelly's show has been riddled with problems from the start.
During the first week, she angered Will & Grace star Debra Messing by asking one of the show's fans if he was homosexual because of the sitcom's lead character, a gay lawyer named Will.
Days later, she insulted Jane Fonda by asking the 79-year-old actress about her plastic surgery.
Fonda was on the show with Robert Redford to promote their movie, Our Souls At Night.
As time went on, the gaffes grew and her audience shrank.
Some problems were not of her making, such as when a cameraman walked on-screen while she was interviewing soccer player Carli Lloyd. The cameraman could be heard muttering an expletive, which was not bleeped since the show is aired live.
Other problems, though, fell entirely on Kelly's shoulders.
Two days after a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more in the Las Vegas mass shooting, she interrupted Tom Brokaw as the former NBC Nightly News anchor spoke out against the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The backlash was swift.
"Megyn Kelly cutting off Tom Brokaw while he rails against the NRA is exactly why this woman has no place on TV," Vogue culture writer Patricia Garcia said.
Kelly is now reportedly having trouble booking celebrity guests, unlike the other blocs of Today, according to Variety.
"I'm not booking anyone on her show," one publicist told the trade publication.
"I haven't pitched anyone even from right out the gate. The buzz that is out there is so bad."
An NBC spokesman denied the report. Still, on many days, Kelly does not have celebrities at all, which is unusual for the Today franchise.
Instead, she often relies on lifestyle stories and pre-taped features. One recent 51/2-minute segment followed Kelly and her family as they went camping.
"Sadly, I haven't spent a lot of time outdoors since I moved to New York," she said. "I feel the disconnect - and I miss it."
And, indoors, in the studio, life is unfortunately also proving not to be a picnic at all for her.