NEW YORK – Balloons and fans chanting her name greeted Jenny McCarthy on her first day on “The View” last week, opening a transition season for Barbara Walters’ daytime show at the same time a program modeled after it, “The Talk,” is gaining momentum.
At “The View,” they’re even looking to introduce something revolutionary: men.
It’s the 17th season for “The View” on ABC and the last with Walters on the air. The only other remaining original cast member, Joy Behar, departed this summer, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck left for Fox News Channel.
The show’s basic idea — a group of women of different ages and backgrounds chatting about events of the day — was the obvious model for “The Talk” when the CBS program began four years ago. “The Talk” cast of Sara Gilbert, Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne, Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood is intact for another season.
McCarthy, a TV veteran whose recent VH1 show didn’t work out, got a tour of the city and the lion’s share of attention last Monday.
“I’m grateful to have a job,” she said. “It’s the best job ever and I feel like the luckiest girl in the world.”
“The View” could use a pick-me-up. The show has averaged 2.93 million viewers this year, the Nielsen company said, down from 3.2 million during the same period in 2012 and 3.51 million the year before that.
Much of the season will be a victory lap for the semi-retiring Walters, frequently featuring highlights of her career in television news with updates of people she’s talked to through the years. Far from cutting back, the 83-year-old Walters said she may be on the air more often this season than her usual three days a week.
Despite losing two cast members, “The View” isn’t in a hurry to name another full-time host, said Bill Geddie, executive producer.
Instead, it will feature frequent male guest hosts. The idea is an expansion of the “guy day Friday” days with men on the panel they’ve had recently. Expect to see the likes of Mario Cantone, Brad Garrett and Jason Biggs.
“Other programs have followed us and have been all female,” Walters said. “We’d like to follow our trend of being a little avant-garde.”
Geddie, who worked with Walters at ABC News even before “The View” began, said he considered leaving with her. “Part of me thought it wasn’t a bad idea, that Barbara and I sort of say goodbye to this together,” he said.
“It’s a bad idea,” Walters interjected. He’s agreed to stay on a few more years. Walters intends to be working as an executive producer next fall, too.
While a transition year, at least viewers know about it: McCarthy coming and Walters going, said Bill Carroll, a daytime television expert for Katz Media. The show will benefit from the attention. Next season, with the on-air absence of the woman who invented the show, will be the true mystery, he said.
Over at CBS, the five hosts of “The Talk” promised a secret-spilling opening week, with guests that included Simon Baker, Queen Latifah and Lisa Marie Presley.
“The Talk” stumbled getting out of the gate. Two of its original hosts, actresses Leah Remini and Holly Robinson-Peete, exited acrimoniously. The show changed its original focus, of making everything relatable to moms, when it realized the approach was too narrow and unnecessarily excluded potential viewers.
And who needs that?
“As a viewer, you are invited to join us at the table,” said Angelica McDaniel, head of daytime programing at CBS. “You feel like you’re meeting your girlfriends for lunch or going out together.”
The show scored some of its best ratings ever this summer before taking a five-week hiatus that ended last week. “The Talk” benefits from following CBS’ popular soap operas in the lineup and is apparently getting more of those fans to stay: It averaged 2.41 million viewers this year, up from 2.16 million during the same period last year, Nielsen said.
“If you liked the show before, you’re going to continue to like it,” Chen said.
Chen said viewers know they’re going to get an “hour of fun” from “The Talk,” with doses of celebrity scandal and relationship chat. She said she believed “The Talk” and “The View” have unique audiences but could collide if “The View” and its new cast “tried to be a little bit more like us. Then we might be going after the same audience. We specifically said when we launched that we wanted it to be different from ‘The View.’ We don’t want to talk politics and ‘The View’ launched, basically, as a female ‘Crossfire.’ “
That’s a neat trick: trying to convince the public that “The View” would be taking a cue from “The Talk” if the older show has less politics — a virtual certainty with the absence of Behar and Hasselbeck and the impending departure of one of television’s top journalists.
“I don’t think we have to respond to them,” Walters said. “I don’t think it’s competition to us. It’s on at a different time. I wish them well. I don’t think people are saying, ‘I’m going to watch ‘The Talk’ so I’m not going to watch ‘The View.’ “