Hoda Kotb and Kathie Lee Gifford will soon be celebrating 11 together as best on-air pals, and the sidekicks of “Today’s” fourth hour are savoring every minute more sweetly than ever, for good reason. Kathie Lee Gifford announced in December that she will be leaving her “Today” seat after the April anniversary celebration, and she's already made herself at home in Music City, Nashville, where she has put down creative and personal roots over the past year.

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Chemistry was never a question between Kathie Lee and Hoda. Even “winging it’ on their first broadcast outing in Rockefeller Plaza, the ladies were able to create irresistible, off-the-cuff banter that viewers found delightful. When it comes to tampering with the trademark Coca-Cola taste, however, the iconic carbonated beverage has certainly suffered some fails in trotting out new flavors. Most notably, the 1985 rollout of “new Coke” nearly caused street riots in some neighborhoods, until the higher powers relented, and resumed marketing its original flavor.

This week, for February 8’s “Tryday Friday” debut, Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb were more than game to try the first new canned flavor of Coke since 2002, but as the saying goes, the camera doesn't lie, and the faces of their first impressions spoke the total truth.

Failing the taste test

A faithful stage assistant brought out the glasses with straws, and Kathie Lee Gifford was already leery, mentioning that Vanilla Coke, per her estimation, was a flop when the flavor was introduced in 2002.

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The flavor was discontinued in 2005, for two years, and experimental tries with raspberry and peach flavored Coke were touted early in 2018.

“We're going to try to identify the flavor,” Hoda Kotb ventured, diving in for a first taste. It didn't take long to get her honest response. “Yuck,” she announced, releasing the word that no food or beverage manufacturer wants to be broadcast to the world. Kathie Lee Gifford held back words, but her eyes bulged at first sip, in the same second as Kotb’s utterance.

“Strawberry or grape?” Hoda guessed on the flavor, and Kathie Lee could only come up with cherry, before lifting the cover over the cans of new Orange Vanilla Coke, which will be widely available on February 25.

Hoda did follow up with a quick “Sorry” after her instant response, but Kathie Lee Gifford was more direct with a critique. “Didn't they learn that the vanilla wasn't happening?” the host pondered. “Guess we won't be doing commercials for them!” Gifford exclaimed, exiting the taste test segment smiling with Kotb.

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Going back to basics

As fate would have it, Kathie Lee Gifford got to take a memory walk all the way back to 1979 just the day before on “Today.” The crack today staff unearthed the Florida orange juice commercial from the exuberant young pitchwoman, then known as Kathie Lee Johnson, donning a Dorothy Hamill-like bob. She had a hard time remembering Arnold Palmer’s name, but he did Florida a favor with the campaign.

Then, as now, Kathie Lee summons enough enthusiasm to sell ice to an Eskimo in the commercial spot, with her title tagged as “recording artist.” Gifford has returned to writing and recording music with a fresh, creative vigor since her collaboration with Brett James and topping the iTunes charts last year.

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Coca-Cola would love to return to the late 70s when sparkling drinks were dominated by the sweeter likes of its brands, and names like Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, and 7-Up. Sparkling waters and flavored waters, along with the now-available spiked waters with alcohol, have dominated sales for five years running. Coke has found success in adding numerous flavors to its diet varieties.

The reaction is split on Orange Vanilla Coke on social media. It seems those with the sweeter teeth prefer the taste most, while others have compared it to candy corn and cotton candy. Those sweet treats still have loyal fans, so Vanilla Orange Coke can still catch on-- just don't hire Kathie Lee Gifford or Hoda Kotb for any commercials.

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