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Today’s Hot Topic: ‘The View’

Jan 23, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The old audition tapes, the pilot and early guests will be on display on “The View” when it turns 2,000-episodes-old Feb. 2. And it doesn’t look a day older than 200, when it was a sophomore daytime show still struggling to get many ABC affiliates to run it in pattern in the morning-instead of in the middle of the night, or worse, not at all-which was quite unjust given that Barbara Walters and longtime collaborator Bill Geddie were behind (and in front of) it.

Eighteen-hundred hours and nine years later, “The View” has long since conquered its clearance problems. It has turned ABC’s fortunes around in an hour that had become a death slot after a string of flops. It has become a must-be-on show, the format of which accommodates everyone from celebs to serious politicians and outrageous pundits. It is an Emmy-winning model others imitate and never manage to duplicate. Its hot-topic opening segments often serve as summaries of the news for viewers. It sparks controversy, which makes news. It has evolved without moving away from its original concept-four women of different ages and backgrounds who are fearless about expressing their own points of view.

But it has never conquered the problem that inevitably bugs even forgiving viewers the most: cross-talk, which can get so loud and insistent that the show occasionally threatens to turn into an hour of babble.

“This is what’s charming about the show and annoying about the show,” said Mr. Geddie. He is an executive producer, along with Ms. Walters, of “The View” and of her eponymous prime-time specials. (The next special from Barwall Productions will be her annual Oscar special, which will air on ABC March 1 this year, not on Oscar night, March 5.)

“Cross-talk is an ongoing problem with us,” said Mr. Geddie, the “‘View’ master” whose front-row studio seat during shows has made him a fifth or sixth member of the conversation, depending on whether the full “View” crew-the wonderful Meredith Vieira, the comical Joy Behar, the young-mom Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Star Jones (see Jan. 16 Insider) and Ms. Walters-is in that day.

“I tell you, I go out of my mind,” Ms. Walters said. “I am the only one of the whole group who sees the show on the air. When I am home I am saying, ‘I can’t stand it.’ I call the control room. I say to Dusty Cohen, who is our senior producer in the control room: ‘Cross-talk.’ He’ll say in everyone’s ear: ‘Cross-talk.’ And then I will sit down the next day with the women and say, ‘You have no idea …’

“It is our biggest problem. But it’s because it’s unrehearsed,” said Ms. Walters, whose image is, happily, no longer as restrained and proper as it was when she was the regal queen of “20/20” with a neverending list of big gets.

Indeed her late, great ABC News boss, Roone Arledge, advised her not to do “The View,” saying it would ruin her hard-earned news reputation.

Instead, “The View” has earned her an also well-deserved reputation as a great broad, with a great bawdy-and the quick wit and sense of humor that entails.

“This may be the easiest and best time of my life,” Ms. Walters said. “I have this wonderful outlet to go to two days a week. I also get my makeup put on and my hair done and I look great at lunch.”