'The View' tries to right the ship
NEW YORK (AP) — Close your eyes and it felt like old times one morning last week on "The View." Joy Behar's sharp tongue was at work, warning presidential candidate Donald Trump to show more heart to women and teasing him about whether he was a Democrat or Republican.
Open your eyes and it's clearly 2015.
Who are those women surrounding Behar on the stage? There's Whoopi Goldberg — her, we know. But Michelle Collins? Paula Faris? Candace Cameron Bure? Raven-Symone? Forgive Behar if she wishes for nametags.
These are tough times at the show Barbara Walters invented to great success two decades ago, with viewers being asked to accept a second jarring makeover in 12 months. But September is a time for optimism in television, just like April is for baseball teams. And a cast member at the daytime knockoff "The Talk" may have unwittingly provided her rivals with locker room bulletin board material for motivation.
"We're excited about the team on air and behind the scenes," said James Goldston, president of ABC News, which took over supervision of the talk show from the network's entertainment division last year. "They'll be true to 'The View's' roots and take it forward, too."
The first season after Walters' retirement began with the high-profile return of Rosie O'Donnell. But the heart attack survivor quit in February, citing stress. Rosie Perez was only on the job a few months before seeing newspaper rumors that producers were unhappy with her; she was gone by July. Nicolle Wallace similarly didn't last a year, turning down an offer to return only on a part-time basis.
The backdrop lent bite to Goldberg's on-air remark when holding a coffee mug with the show's logo.
"There used to be faces on the cups," she said last week, "because people stuck around."
Turnover is tough on any TV show, but especially something like "The View." The whole conceit is that people at home are sharing a cup of coffee with a group of friends, electronically speaking. Changing those friends over and over again destroys the illusion.
"It's hard with rotating names of people coming in and out and the feeling that you don't know who is going to be there the next day," said Brian Teta, co-executive producer. "Now we don't have that anymore. We have our team and that's exciting."
Teta, who used to work for David Letterman, is now the No. 2 off-screen leader under Candi Carter, a former producer at "The Oprah Winfrey Show" who recently launched a talk show for Ice T and his wife, Coco. They replace Bill Wolff, who lasted only a year as the replacement for long-time boss Bill Geddie.
Cameron Bure is inheriting the role as the show's conservative voice, although her reprisal of her role as D.J. Tanner in the Netflix reboot "Fuller House" will limit her participation at first. At 29, former "Cosby Show" star Raven-Symone offers a youthful perspective, the comic Collins frequently tries to interject laugh lines and Faris has a news background.
Behar, who "retired" with great fanfare two years ago, said she was intrigued about coming back heading into an election year. Besides Trump, Elizabeth Warren was a guest on the show's first week. Behar won't be on every day, but will be the moderator on Fridays, and that show will be broadcast live — recently, the show has given itself three-day weekends by taping Friday shows in advance.
"They seem to be good," Behar said of her new colleagues. "They seem to be listening to each other."
Goldberg's more cautious. "You'll have to ask me in a month," she said.
Goldberg offers continuity on the show seen by an average of 2.4 million people last season (down from 2.7 million the year before). ABC, though, had to delicately walk her away this summer from her vigorous defense of Bill Cosby against sexual assault charges, bringing Dan Abrams on a subsequent show to fully explain the extent of the allegations. It was a potential disaster to have Cosby's most prominent public defender as the de facto leader on a daytime show that targets women.
"We are so fortunate to have Whoopi Goldberg," Goldston said. "She's an American legend and she's achieved what mere mortals only dream of."
The bulletin board material came courtesy of Julie Chen, whose CBS show "The Talk" has improved in the ratings in large part due to its stability. Chen told Howard Stern that she heard Walters say she was toying with the idea of going back to "The View" to save it, and she and others advised against it.
"That ship has sailed," she said. "No one can turn it around. Stay away. It'll only hurt your image."
Walters' spokeswoman declined comment. Goldston said he hadn't heard Chen's remarks.
You can bet, however, that they've been filed away at "The View."
Follow David Bauder at twitter.com/dbauder. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/david-bauder