Chris Brown's appearance on Monday's "Today" showed the awkwardly transactional nature of many morning show appearances.
"Today" jumped from friendly to slightly probing and back to friendly with Brown, all in the span of an hour. Brown's first appearance of the morning was at the head of a surprise flash mob -- a typical morning-show introduction of a popular singer.
After that, it was time for Matt Lauer's interview with Brown, when "Today" was forced to grapple with the fact that its guest has a very checkered history of domestic violence.
Lauer was thorough--he ran through topics ranging from the assault on Rihanna to Brown's more recent violent incidents, and asked Brown whether or not his contrition was a publicity stunt--but the overall tone was gentle rather than prosecutorial, a redemption narrative instead of an excoriation. Brown said that he had grown and learned from his mistakes, and knew he had been wrong to attack Rihanna.
The show then helped Brown premiere his new single. The Internet reacted with typical measures of revulsion and delight.
"Today" is by no means alone in this awkward handling of Brown and other stars with tawdry histories. (Witness the media's generally jolly treatment of Charlie Sheen, for example.) But it was the latest outlet that seemingly did not quite know what to do with the story on its hands.