Bill Geddie, longtime producing partner of Barbara Walters on ABC’s award-nabbing talk show “The View” — and this year’s Lifetime Achievement Honoree at the Daytime Emmys — got a rather inconspicuous start in the biz.
“I was buffing the floors of KOCO-TV, the ABC affiliate in Oklahoma City,” says Geddie of his first stint in television. “The position involved running studio cameras part time, but my main job was to clean things.”
Over the next decade, loftier posts followed, and Geddie landed plum editorial gigs at the NBC affiliates in Atlanta and Cleveland, Ohio, and at the syndicated series “P.M. Magazine,” working alongside Maria Shriver.
“At one point, I got tired of producers pushing me around and decided to become one of them,” he explains.
In 1983, Geddie took the reigns as producer of “Good Morning America,” traversing the globe with “GMA” host David Hartman. Highlights of the pairing included an Emmy-winning five-part series on Africa (tracking gorillas in Rwanda and shadowing a doctor as she made the rounds treating patients in Somalia), accompanying the USO to entertain American troops at Thule Air Base in northern Greenland, and profiling a test pilot for the B1 Bomber, a story for which they earned a second Emmy.
“You name it, I did it,” recalls Geddie of the experience.
Then, in 1991, the opportunity to work with Barbara Walters arose.
“There were many people in line before me,” says Geddie of the chance to produce “The 50th Barbara Walters Special,” a two-hour, greatest-hits retrospective of Walters’ most memorable sit-downs with celebrities.
“During my interview with Barbara, I said something to her, which was the best possible thing I could have said,” he says. “I said to her, ‘Assume after one show that I’m fired. I’ll do this one show, and then you can hire anyone you want.’ ”
Fast-forward two decades, and Geddie and Walters have together left an indelible mark on daytime TV. Along the way, Geddie gleaned what would become his greatest lesson in daytime TV.
“Often in this business people will say things like, ‘Well, so-and-so is doing something really interesting. Why don’t you try that?’ ” he says. “And my response is, ‘If somebody else is doing something, then why in hell would I want to do that?’ If we’re chasing other people’s ideas, we’re finished.”
In 1997, Walters came up with a fresh idea for a talk show that would feature a multigenerational panel of women discussing the most pressing topics of the moment.
“I really felt that women at home deserved a show like ‘The View,’ ” he says. “TV was offering lots in the way of really silly, pure entertainment programming and also the inspirational stuff on ‘Oprah,’ but there was nothing that kept women in touch with their daily lives.”
Walter agreed to give the show a go, but neither she nor Geddie anticipated its staying power.
“Barbara worried about her credibility, but I told her I really wanted to do it,” says Geddie. “I didn’t think it would last long. We didn’t have great numbers at the beginning. I figured we’d get two years out of it.”
Since then, “The View” has welcomed everybody from Justin Bieber to President Obama and has garnered a plethora of industry accolades, including the 2009 Emmy for talkshow host, an unprecedented honor shared by Walters, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
“Our show has to keep evolving,” Geddie says. “The show you’re going to see in three years will be very different than the show you see today. If we make the right decision about ‘The View,’ it will still be going strong when I’m retired and playing golf. The show is designed to outlast us all.”
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showdown| Daydream believers | Shelved soaps set for a swan-song salute | Geddie buffs his way to lifetime honor