After a year of Rosie ratings, ABC has tapped Whoopi Goldberg to help “The View” maintain its Nielsen momentum.
Goldberg has inked a multiyear deal to replace O’Donnell in the key role of “View” moderator starting Sept. 4. Announcement, made by Barbara Walters dur-ing Wednesday’s live broadcast of “The View,” was no surprise, with Disney-ABC TV Group daytime chief Brian Frons confirming talks with the Oscar-winning thesp last week (Daily Variety, July 27).
ABC is still in talks with several candidates to fill the long-vacant Star Jones slot on “The View.” No decision is expected before the show’s 11th season pre-miere next month.
Walters, who has known Goldberg for 20 years, told Daily Variety the actress was a frontrunner for the gig from the moment O’Donnell announced she was exiting the show after less than a year.
“The question was, would we be lucky enough to get Whoopi? Would she want to do a show five days a week?” Walters said. When it became clear Gold-berg was interested, formal talks began, with Frons characterizing the negotiations as brief.
“She brings us great talent, she brings us humor, she brings us knowledge of current events,” Walters said of Goldberg. “She also brings us diversity. I don’t think we said, ‘A-ha! She’s African-American,’ but it does give us diversity on the panel.”
Goldberg is a familiar face to “View”-ers, having guested on the show more than a dozen times and co-hosted on 14 occasions. She also has served as modera-tor a couple of times.
Comic-thesp said the chance to help shape the skein’s “Hot Topics” roundtable discussions was a motivating factor in accepting the offer from ABC and Wal-ters.
“I like spending time with these women, and there is a great conversation to be had every day with the ‘Hot Topics,’ “ she said. “Since they’ve expanded the segment, the topics have gotten much richer. I’m looking forward to being a part of that.”
Frons called Goldberg “a grounded soul, funny, wise and a good listener, all of which will work well for her in that role.” He also noted Goldberg chose to walk through the audience during her “View” unveiling Wednesday, rather than approach from backstage.
“She’s someone who can really feel that audience,” he said.
While the fundamentals of “The View” will remain unchanged, Walters and Frons both hinted the show will evolve with Goldberg in the mix.
“It’s a new chemistry and a new dynamic,” Walters said, adding she’d like to find a way to give Goldberg a chance to resurrect some of her more familiar stage personas from her Broadway productions.
With her new “View” gig, Goldberg will continue to host “Wake Up With Whoopi,” the nationally syndicated daily radio show distribbed by Clear Channel.
“I’ll work on that from 5 until around 8:15 (a.m.), then roll on over to ‘The View,’ “ Goldberg said. “We start broadcasting live at 11, and when it’s all done, I’ll have worked a 12-hour day,” including prep time for the radio gig, she said.
Adding that she’s “a bit of an insomniac,” Goldberg said she didn’t have to think long about extending her work day: “What else was I going to be doing after 8 o’clock but sit around and hang out? I might as well get paid for it.”
Goldberg is no stranger to TV, having hosted her own short-lived but critically praised latenight skein, which let her conduct one-on-one interviews with guests. She also toplined her own NBC laffer in 2003.
As for Jones’ replacement, Frons said the idea of rotating guest hosts remains a possibility, but it’s not the most likely scenario.
“There’s a certain amount of comfort for the audience (with regular hosts), plus it reduces wear and tear on the staff,” he said.