Actress set for femme talkshow

ABC will unveil actress Sherri Shepherd as the fifth host of “The View” on Monday, filling out the cast of the daytime talkshow.

Sources closed to the show confirmed Shepherd will become the show’s newest panelist, filling the slot left vacant by Star Jones more than a year ago.

ABC had been in talks with Shepherd for some time; they decided to delay her announcement to give incoming moderator Whoopi Goldberg a week to get her footing as the show’s new moderator.

Goldberg’s debut on “The View” drew 3.4 million viewers to the show on Tuesday, 1 million viewers less than O’Donnell’s debut the year before, according to Nielsen Media Research.

The appointment of Shepherd brings “The View” panel to full strength for the first time since the departure of Jones, who launched a talk show on Court TV this summer, and former moderator Meredith Vieira, who left last summer to become co-anchor of NBC’s “Today.”

ABC execs didn’t appoint a fifth panelist during O’Donnell’s feud-filled run as moderator, deciding instead to focus on holding the show together while they rode the ratings phenomenon.

“We said, ‘OK, we’re on some sort of a ride here and we’ll ride it through,’” said EP Bill Geddie the day of Goldberg’s debut. “This year we’re going to fill the fifth chair.”

Like Goldberg, who had appeared 25 times as a guest, Shepherd was a frequent visitor to the show. She appeared 12 times as a guest host and was considered a leading candidate to replace Jones before O’Donnell started as moderator and ABC execs put the fifth host on hold.

ABC wanted to get a fifth host in place before Elizabeth Hasselbeck goes on maternity leave in November. Barbara Walters only appears on the show two days a week, which would leave the cast thin without a fifth member.

Despite the addition of Goldberg, ABC execs have been managing expectations for ratings this year. ABC Daytime prexy Brian Frons predicted that ratings this year would run somewhere between 2005, and O’Donnell’s stint in 2006 when ratings hit 10-year highs.

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