Meredith Vieira, who came to TCA Summer TV Press Tour 2014 to plug her new NBCUniversal daytime talk show debuting on September 8, got asked if, were she not launching her own daytime show, would she be interested in returning to ABC’s daytime talker The View. Vieira served as that show’s original moderator from its debut on August 11, 1997, until June 9, 2006.
“No,” Vieira responded firmly. “I knew after nine years it was time to leave The View; I have a pretty good sense of timing and I always like to get out before something bad happens.” Having since appeared on The View several times during which she said she was treated “lovingly,” she came to realize “you can’t go back.” Going back, she said, would have seemed “crazy aunt going back.”
That’ll be news to Rosie O’Donnell, who in fact is going back to the show she famously left after one short, acrimonious season. ABC confirmed Rosie’s hire in a tweet, ending a mad media chase of this The View Is Out Of New Ideas story.
So popular has been the Rosie storyline, reports have now surfaced the show’s producers and ABC are mulling other Hosts Who Got Pushed as candidates for The View. The list includes Ann Curry, who was famously, tearily, removed from NBC’s Today (she’d replaced Vieira), and Leah Remini, who got shown the door by CBS’ The View homage, The Talk. Former VPOTUS candidate/current reality TV star/Fox News contributor Sarah Palin also pitched to take The Conservative Chair on the daytime talker — though O’Donnell’s reported insistence on having veto power over other potential co-hosts and insistence the producers rule out reality show stars would seem to be directed at Palin. The View now needs to replace not only Walters, but Sherri Shepherd, who announced to Deadline a few weeks back that she was done co-hosting the show, and Jenny McCarthy, who’s contract was not being renewed. According to some reports by people with knowledge of the situation, conservative Meghan McCain — a Pivot network co-host and daughter of Sen. John McCain, also was under consideration. ABC has declined to comment on other names.
Vieira, following in the footsteps of her Today predecessors Jane Pauley and Katie Couric, is expected to do a lighter show than Pauley’s short-lived talker, or Couric’s only-slightly longer-lived Disney syndicated show, playing off Vieira’s 11-year Who Wants To Be A Millionaire run and her years air-traffic controlling on The View. Today, as in other interviews walking up to her new show launch, Vieira stressed her “authenticity.” Viewers, she said, “can smell a fake a mile away — not that the other ones failed because the people who fronted them are phony,” she added quickly. By way of demonstrating how authentic hew new show will be, she explained the chair in which she will sit is actually a beat up chair from her own home’s family room. The rest of the beat up furniture on the set will be fakes — replicas of her own family room beat up furniture — because, she explained, her family would not let her take away the rest of their family-room seating. And she had hoped her dog, Jasper, would be with her on the show every day, “but he almost bit a photographer’s testicles the other day and I don’t want a lawsuit.” Instead, each week will feature a service dog and every Friday viewers will meet the human being paired with the dog.
In May, NBCU announced E Street Band’s Everett Bradley has joined Vieira’s show as bandleader, and Vieira’s “pal” Jon Harris will serve as the show’s announcer. Bradley plays percussion and sings backup vocals with Bruce Springsteen, and will lead the house band on the weekday show, a rarity for daytime TV. In addition, Geoff Rosen and Matthew Strauss were named co-executive producers. Benita Alexander, Angela LaGreca and Leslie Peirez have joined as supervising producers.
In February, Vieira made history, becoming the first woman to ever anchor NBC’s primetime Olympics coverage. NBC gave her the gig because it needed a fill-in for Bob Costas, who had been felled by an eye condition. Vieira, who’d been brought to Sochi to co-host the Opening Ceremony with Matt Lauer, and to do segments for Today on U.S. athletes to watch at the Games, took over for Lauer, who’d pulled double duty to fill in for Costas for three days. Costas spent the entire Winter Games battling an infection in both eyes that made studio lighting his enemy, though he too may have made TV history: first anchor on record with Twitter-trending eyes. For a TV veteran whose new syndicated daytime talk show was set to launch in the fall, the Sochi exposure was a gift.
“They thrive on ratings and she’ll probably bring ratings. She’s very edgy — there’ s a certain amount of danger to Rosie, and they’re looking to soup up the show,” former co-host Joy Behar told Don Lemon on CNN, the night before ABC finally gave up trying to keep O’Donnell’s re-hire under wraps. Behar’s comments came hours after yet another ex-co-host, Elisabeth Hasselbeck savaged O’Donnell’s return: “Here in comes to The View the very woman who’s spit in the face of our military, spit in the face of her own network, and, really spit in the face of a person who stood by her and had civilized debates for the time that she was there – coming back with a bunch of control, ready to regain The View with a seat at that table,” vacationing Hasselbeck phoned in to her new show, Fox & Friends, specifically to say. Hasselbeck claimed that when The View collected all of its past and present co-hosts for Walters’ penultimate episode, Rosie told her she’d “produced the reunion show.”
Hours later, on CNN, Behar called Hasselbeck’s comments “below the belt,” “hate-filled,” and “dangerous” — noting one of Rosie’s children is now at The Citadel military college.