By Allison J. Waldman
If your daytime talk show is so successful that it’s been nominated in the show and host categories for Daytime Emmys every year it’s been on the air, you must be doing something right.
However, if you’re Bill Geddie, executive producer of ABC’s “The View,” you want something more.
“It’s an honor to be nominated 10 years in a row,” said Mr. Geddie. “That’s a very big deal, but it’s important to win.”
This just might be the year “The View” grabs the top Daytime Emmys, because no other talk show has generated the kind of headlines and attention Mr. Geddie’s program has.
The addition of Rosie O’Donnell as one of the hosts has drawn more attention to “The View” than ever before. “It is must-see TV because what happened is that Rosie raised everybody’s game,” said Mr. Geddie. “Joy and Elisabeth and Barbara are all better because Rosie is sitting at the table. That helped tremendously. Once you’ve done it nine years, you need a shot of adrenaline, and Rosie provided it.”
Feuding with Donald Trump and taking on the nastiness of the “American Idol” audition process were just the tip of the iceberg when it came to how Ms. O’Donnell stirred things up on “The View.” Mr. Geddie welcomes the controversy. “I’m a television producer. That means I like it. I like to see them mix it up at the table. I like it exciting,” he said.
“I get worried if things are too calm. I know when something’s said that will get us in trouble, and I certainly don’t relish the phone call I’m going to get afterward. But I know that this is a different sort of show than daytime has ever seen before. It’s our job to talk about what’s happening now and to talk about it passionately.”
Making the move to add Ms. O’Donnell to the mix came after Star Jones was dropped. But Ms. O’Donnell was never Ms. Jones’ replacement; she actually was taking Meredith Vieira’s seat. “We haven’t replaced Star yet,” said Mr. Geddie. “The decisions regarding Star were made before Rosie’s name was even brought up. They were tied to research and the sort of disconnect that Star had with our audience. Rosie came along many, many months later.”
It was thanks to Barbara Walters that Ms. O’Donnell, a multiple Emmy winner for her own talk show who ended its run while still atop the ratings, agreed to come back to daytime. “I have to take Rosie at her word when she says she came back because Barbara asked her. Barbara’s influence is extremely important in this,” said Mr. Geddie. “We wouldn’t be on the air if it wasn’t for Barbara. Our numbers weren’t that great the first year, but people didn’t want to walk up to Barbara and say it’s not rating that well. She bought us an extra year and we found our footing. I think it was a combination of things [with Rosie]. I think she was ready. The time was right for Rosie and Barbara asked.”
The press coverage of Ms. Jones’ exit tried to make a mountain out of a molehill. “We knew there’d be a storm,” said Mr. Geddie. “But we knew that the Star issue and the Rosie issue were completely separate things. Even though the press tried to tie them together, they had nothing to do with each other. … The show is always evolving and the show changes depending on who’s at the table.”
Since the inception of “The View,” Mr. Geddie has collaborated every step of the way with Ms. Walters, the show’s executive producer. “When we first were doing the auditions here in a hotel room in New York, when we put together Meredith Vieira, Star Jones and Joy Behar, we knew we had something. We thought we had a very good idea for a show at the start,” he said.
Still, Mr. Geddie admits, “Barbara thought it would be successful, but I wasn’t really sure. Mostly because everybody drilled into me that we were only in 60 percent of the country; we didn’t have that many clearances.
“The timeslot had been beaten up by a string of mediocre products that had run before us. We were sort of a 1-in-a-100 shot. Everybody told me the show was too smart for 11 a.m., [but] I think we discovered very early that there was a segment of the audience that was underestimated and underserved.”
Even before “The View,” Mr. Geddie knew Ms. Walters would bring 100% to the project. “I’ve worked with her for 19 years. Just as a producer, what I like about Barbara is that you never have to worry that you’re working harder than she is. She is always working harder than you are,” he said. “She’s always thinking of things you haven’t thought of.
“She’s a producer, she’s a businesswoman, you get a lot of things with her and she’s totally upfront with you. You never have to guess what Barbara Walters is thinking; she tells you what she’s thinking. All those things make for a very happy, secure work environment.”
As for the upcoming Daytime Emmys, Mr. Geddie is guardedly optimistic. “I try not to expect too much. When you’ve lost as many times as we have, you try not to walk in with too much optimism,” said Mr. Geddie. “As the women say, ‘There’s always one of us to hate.’
“It’s tough to say that all of these people deserve to win, because sooner or later you’re going to be watching the show and think, ‘I really don’t like that one.’ But if people look at the ensemble, they are very hard to beat as an ensemble. It’s almost simpler to be a single talk show host. People recognize the skill level you need to do it well. I think these women should win.”
The distinction that Mr. Geddie feels should work in “The View’s” favor is the fact that it’s a live show. “It’s the thing that separates our show from the other shows. There are multiple hosts and we are live. Very few of these shows are live. You take most of these shows we’re up against and they are edited and re-edited. They run long, they cut out the boring parts, they put in pretty shots, they change the graphics, they do whatever they need to do.
“Our show is not like that. What you see is what you get. What you saw spilling out of your television set from New York is exactly what we enter for an Emmy,” he added.
“I think people who work in live TV are bringing in a slightly different media than people who are operating on tape. That’s the only thing that I would change. Doing a live television show is a whole different forum. So I feel good about the Emmys, but you never know.”