Even if you are a regular viewer of ABC’s daytime talk show “The View,” you may not recognize it come next year.
On Sunday, Barbara Walters became the latest cohost to announce her imminent departure from the 16-year-old program, citing her forthcoming retirement from TV journalism, after a storied career that has spanned more than five decades.
“I am very happy with my decision and look forward to a wonderful and special year ahead both on ‘The View' and with ABC News," she said in a statement. “I created ‘The View’ and am delighted it will last beyond my leaving it.”
Walters, who will step down in 2014, co-created the popular discussion show with producer Bill Geddie in 1997. The show has gone through numerous lineups and shakeups over the years, including an abrupt departure from former cohost Star Jones, who was fired instantly after she’d announced during a live broadcast that she was planning to leave the show.
More recently, “The View” has been beset by rumors, speculation, surprise announcements and awkward attempts to freshen up its format. In March, after multiple news outlets reported that Elisabeth Hasselbeck was getting the boot for being too conservative, a perturbed Walters personally denied the reports live on the show. The brouhaha erupted just days after Joy Behar announced her own retirement.
Since Behar’s announcement, “The View” has rarely featured all five cast regulars (including Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd) together in the same episode. Instead, producers have been parading out a slew of guest co-hosts in what can only be described as quasi-auditions. Exactly whose slot they are auditioning for is unclear. Behar and Walters are definitely out, and the rumor mill continues to swirl around Hasselbeck’s departure. Goldberg, meanwhile, shows up mostly for her paycheck, at least according to US Weekly. Some guest hosts, like Brooke Shields and Jenny McCarthy, have been appearing so frequently that they seem a shoe-in for the short list of 2014 additions. Other more recent tryouts, like Mindy Kaling of “The Mindy Project,” would appeal more directly to the golden 25-54 demographic so prized by advertisers.
“The View” has not been immune to the ratings decline that has plagued daytime television in general. Under pressure to boost ratings among younger viewers, producers of the show have added a few social-media-friendly bells and whistles, including select viewer tweets that appear superimposed across the screen during the “Hot Topics” segment, when the hosts discuss controversial current events.
Of course, the vast majority of tweets don’t pass muster with censors at ABC, which is owned by the Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS). As such, the tweets that do make it on the air consist of largely bland declarations from people who are excited to be watching the show. The chosen tweets add nothing to the discussion at hand, and the very fact that they are so heavily filtered violates the spirit of social media in the first place.
That leaves the future of the personality-driven “View” in the hands of its cohosts -- right where it’s always been. The hole left by Behar’s departure will be sizable (she’s been with the show from the beginning), but not unfillable. The outspoken Kathy Griffin would be an obvious choice, as the Daily News suggested in March. But replacing the iconic Walters will be a far more challenging task, partially because she created the mold from which producers must pick. Before she took the helm at ABC News in 1976, there were no female news anchors on network television.
Nevertheless, speculation has already begun. On the Facebook pages for “The View,” “Extra” and other entrainment programs, viewers have been amassing a wish list, throwing out names from Susan Lucci to Oprah Winfrey to Michelle Obama. However, when asked who should replace Walters, many Facebook users simply replied “no one.”