The fight for displaced Oprah viewers is on, and The View is poised to attract a lot of them.
Barbara Walters' 'View' primed for run at top of ratings
Barbara Walters invented the format for The View 15 years ago, but with the vacuum created by the departure of The Oprah Winfrey Show, daytime television is ready for a new monarch.
Viewers of the recently launched new season should benefit from a plan by producers to compete aggressively for displaced Winfrey viewers with a more topical feel, aggressive booking of guests and a few pages ripped from Oprah's playbook.
"Oprah was the only other show that did some of the things that we did," said Bill Geddie, executive producer. "Quite honestly, some of the people that we might have got second, we'll be getting first now."
The View has just as much chance as any to become the daytime talk leader, having risen to the top of ABC offerings in the ratings. Airing in the morning, however, it faces a mixture of personalities in the more desirable afternoon slots including Dr Phil, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dr Oz and a new offering this autumn from CNN's Anderson Cooper.
ABC had a string of failures there before asking Walters to come up with an idea for a show. She thought of presenting a handful of women with diverse backgrounds and opinions, primarily an entertainment show. Still busy at ABC News when the show launched in 1997, Walters appeared only two days a week and asked Meredith Vieira to be moderator, a role now held by Whoopi Goldberg.
The View evolved to become more topical and opinionated as the years went on, a progression that is continuing. Recent shows have focused on the 10th anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, while former Vice President Dick Cheney and Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman are each to appear in the first month. Such guests coexist with the popular "hot topics" opening segment, where Goldberg, Walters - who now appears most days of the week - Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Sherri Shepherd explore the day's water-cooler subjects.
Still, Walters cautioned, "we are not Meet the Press". Not with Kim, Kourtney and Khloe Kardashian booked as guests, along with other first-month appearances by Matthew Broderick, Jennifer Aniston, Demi Moore and Alicia Keys.
"Authors, actors, celebrities and so forth need a place to go," said Walters. "And we're a very good place to go. We're an intelligent show, we are a stable show, we like each other.... It's a fun show, and I think they will feel all the more comfortable with us."
Geddie also talks about more frequently using panels of expert contributors - doctors, lawyers and such - to answer questions. That also sounds very Oprah-like, given the satellite system of contributors she developed through the years.
The competitive approach also extends to cosmetics. Instead of slapping a fresh coat of paint on an old set, The View completed a sleek redesign.
"We've always thought of ourself as the little engine that could, and now we're practically the railroad," Geddie said, adding: "We felt that if we were a big show, we ought to look like it and act like it".
The View is broadcast Saturday to Thursday in the UAE, with daily repeats, on OSN First.