SHerri Shepherd Crying the View

Rosie O’Donnell and the network are ready to give it another try

ABC Daytime execs are in the midst of a extensive search for new producers to take the reins of “The View” as the show prepares to replace most of its panelists for its 18th season.

Industry sources say execs are reaching out to a range of producers with experience in daytime TV and news in an effort to inject “fresh energy” into the show. The new hires may well include a co-showrunner to work alongside founding “View” exec producer Bill Geddie. With all the on-air changes, the biz has presumed that Geddie would be giving up his day-to-day showrunner duties as part of the shakeup but ABC sources insist this is not the case.

The hunt for new producers is mirrored by the show’s search for new faces to join moderator Whoopi Goldberg on the panel when the show’s new season begins Sept. 15. Barbara Walters, originator of the series, retired from the show in May, an exit that was planned for more than a year. But late last month word surfaced that Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy would not be returning in September.

Rosie O’Donnell is set to return to the show where she had a volatile run in the 2006-07 season, and TMZ is reporting that she struck a deal on Tuesday afternoon with ABC to come back. Her appearance as a guest in February delivered a ratings bump, a number that did not go unnoticed by execs.

The intensity of the search effort in the past two weeks for panelists and producers is a clear sign that network execs had not hammered out a plan for the post-Walters “View” at the time that Shepherd and McCarthy’s departures became public. “The View” makeover has become the top priority for ABC Daytime prexy Lisa Hackner and a big focus for incoming Disney/ABC Television topper Ben Sherwood.

Sources say “View” is casting a wide net for prominent women to bring a culturally conservative perspective to the panel, as well as women versed in politics and comedy. O’Donnell would add a strong liberal voice to the panel.

There has been much talk of the possibility that a man will join the panel as a regular. Sources caution that dozens of scenarios are under consideration, but there’s a strong feeling that the core “View” panel should remain all femmes in order to preserve the show’s “women talking to women” vibe.

Shepherd and McCarthy will remain with the show through Aug. 8. The two acknowledged their departures on Monday’s telecast. Shepherd, who logged seven years with the show, was tearful as she thanked Walters and Geddie for giving her the opportunity to be on the show.

“I’ve been here seven years, and my time with ‘The View’ is complete,” Shepherd said. “I’m going to forever be grateful to Barbara Walters and Bill Geddie for taking a chance on an actress and making me learn things, helping me step out of my comfort zone. They gave me a chance.”

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