Fans of “The View,” no need to adjust your TV screens. It’s not really 1997. But the ABC morning talk show kicked off with a clever surprise on Friday morning, when original co-hosts Meredith Vieira, Star Jones and Debbie Matenopoulos joined Joy Behar at the Hot Topics Table. After Vieira reclaimed her moderator’s chair, pretending she’d never left, the former ladies of “The View” offered their thoughts on the election and other big news stories of the week.
“As soon as we started the 20th season”—in September—“this is one of the first ideas that came up,” says co-executive producer Brian Teta, who helped organize the secret show. “I have always been a fan of ‘The View.’ I like the idea of an alternate reality, where the panel stayed exactly the same: how would Meredith, Star and Debbie react to the political season? I thought it would be a fun way to honor Barbara Walters’ vision.”
Walters, who was unavailable for the reunion, started “The View” 19 years ago with executive producer Bill Geddie as a forum for women of different generations to gab about politics and pop culture. Of course, “The View,” and the television landscape, has dramatically changed since then. But Friday’s episode included some vintage touches. ABC producers dragged out the first wooden Hot Topics table, which has been sitting in publicist Karl Nilsson’s office, and dug up the old couches in storage and a few original cast mugs from a network cupboard.
Backstage, the four ladies were at home with staff members that started working on “The View” on day one and never left—including producer Dana Fisher, writer Christian McKiernan, booker Donald Berman, associate director John Keegan, editor Rich Provost, stylist Fran Taylor, stage manager Rob Bruce Baron, technical director Rene Butler and props coordinator Bo Kronyak.
“To be honest with you, everybody jumped at the chance, which was great and reassuring,” Teta says. “This was such an important show for all of them. Joy mentioned several times how excited she is.”
“The View” struggled to find its way after Walters retired in 2014. But after a series of management shuffles and co-host changes, the ratings of the show have inched back up under the watch of executive consultant (and Telepictures Productions veteran) Hilary Estey McLoughlin and executive producer Candi Carter, who have shifted the focus of the Hot Topics debates back to politics and less on fluffy stories like reality TV and celebrity dating. That’s been a winning strategy, given the scandalous headlines that emerged from this year’s presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
In the first week in November, “The View” averaged 2.94 viewers, the fourth week in a row with year-to-year gains, and it outperformed CBS’ “The Talk” (2.7 million viewers). In its 20th season, the current panel of “The View” features moderator Whoopi Goldberg, Behar, Candace Cameron Bure and Sara Haines.