The View’s Bloody Backstage Politics: How Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie Lost Control of Their Show
When ABC’s long-popular daytime program The View returns in September for its 18th season, creator Barbara Walters will no longer have an ownership stake, and longtime executive producer Bill Geddie won’t be at the helm.
“He won’t be back,” a person familiar with the inner workings of the show told The Daily Beast, confirming one of the major changes--including the enforced departures of panelists Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy--that ABC executives have imposed on The View in an attempt to freshen up the women-centric daytime show that was launched by Walters in August 1997 over the objections of legendary ABC News President Roone Arledge.
The show was an instant hit and a cash cow for Walters and ABC, but lately the franchise has been running out of steam.
“The numbers needed a boost,” said a source at ABC. Since the 84-year-old Walters officially announced her May retirement and left the show she created--after an iconic career that has spanned six decades--ABC’s new television group president, Ben Sherwood, and the head of daytime programming, a former Telepictures executive named Lisa Hackner, have taken an active role in shaking up the place.
According to a friend of Geddie’s, the veteran producer—who is Barbara Walters’ business partner in Barwall, her independent production company that has produced her Oscar and “Most Fascinating People” specials for the past two decades--had hoped to continue for at least another two years as top dog at the program he helped create. But Hackner and Sherwood had other ideas, and Walters—who according to sources quietly sold her 50 percent ownership stake in The View to the network for an undisclosed sum—no longer had the clout to protect him.
Walters retains the titles as the show’s executive producer and Creator, a near-Biblical designation, but naturally enough her power has waned. Geddie, for his part, fought his defenestration but ultimately accepted defeat. “He didn’t want to retire,” his friend said. “He was really angry.”
Geddie, through a network spokeswoman, declined to comment and, like Walters, didn’t respond to an email. Geddie, who turns 59 on Thursday, apparently has yet to share his plans with colleagues on The View, which will end its 17th season on Aug. 8; nor has Geddie’s replacement been announced.
The show’s uncertain future has prompted a torrent of industry gossip and public backbiting. Last Thursday, The View moderator Whoopi Goldberg, who has managed so far to keep her seat at the table, delivered an angry on-camera rant concerning the swirling rumors and tabloid reports.
“There's a lot of speculation about a lot of stuff going on here. Yes, I’m here. We don’t know who’s coming in. But I will tell you this: The respect I have for the people who work here will not change. I will do my best to respect the audience,” Goldberg declared as McCarthy occasionally put a calming hand on her shoulder. “We are not little kids. We are grown-ass women. I’m tired of people saying, ‘Oh, if this one comes in, if this one comes in.’ I don’t argue with people. We have spirited discussions. I don’t fight with people. It’s not my way. Quit trying to make me into something I’m not. I’m not a little girl with cat claws. I’m not a cat. I’m a human being. A girl with a fist--OK?”
Not quite finished, Goldberg admonished the speculating media: “The View—it’s going to evolve as it always has. So quit trying to make something happen and let whatever’s gonna happen happen.”
Everyone from right-leaning CNN Crossfire host S.E. Cupp, to E! personality Ross Mathews, to fired Today show anchor Ann Curry, has been mentioned as possible replacements for Shepherd and McCarthy.
“My spies tell me they’re looking for a conservative,” original panelist Joy Behar, who left the program last summer after a 16-year run, told The Daily Beast. “They’re going for fireworks rather than camaraderie.”
Behar, a standup comic, said that when she started on the show, “we had chemistry that everybody seemed to like for a good 10 years. And when Star [Jones] and Meredith [Vieira] left, they changed the show to be a little more political, with Rosie [O’Donnell] and Elisabeth [Hasselbeck]…By the time I left last summer it became goody-goody again. Fluffy. Now they’re going back to confrontation. That’s what it looks like to me.”
In recent days, former panelists Behar and Hasselbeck, who since September has co-hosted Fox News’ Fox & Friends morning program, have been bitterly squabbling over ABC’s announcement of the return of sharp-tongued comedian Rosie O’Donnell.
Last Wednesday, the conservative Hasselbeck phoned into Fox & Friends from vacation to slam the liberal O’Donnell, an out lesbian and an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, as “the very woman who spit in the face of our military, spit in the face of her own network, and really in the face of a person [presumably Hasselbeck] 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 a seat at the View table.”
That night on CNN, Behar retorted: “What does she mean by that? And isn’t it kind of a nasty thing to say about somebody who basically is a good person?...I thought that was really kind of below the belt—to say that she spits in the face of the military… That’s a dangerous thing to say about somebody. ... I think it’s a hate-filled remark. And she should explain it.”
From 2006 to 2007 O’Donnell spent a turbulent season as moderator of The View before engaging in a nasty dustup with Donald Trump and reportedly cursing out Walters as a “fucking liar” in the hair and makeup room.
In the past few months, when O’Donnell’s name surfaced in internal discussions at the program, Geddie was said to be resistant to her return. But Walters—who sees the show as her legacy and wants it to thrive—was enthusiastic. A person close to the broadcasting legend said she was instrumental in O’Donnell’s comeback, inserting herself into the comedian’s negotiations for an ABC contract (worth a reported $10 million a year) before heading off to a European vacation last week.
But a source at ABC insisted Walters was merely “consulted” and “informed” concerning O’Donnell’s hiring. “The decision was made by ABC,” said the source.