Meredith Vieira talks about her new show — and casting turmoil at her old one
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Meredith Vieira is headed back to daytime TV and this time, she’s flying solo.
The longtime co-host of “The View” and former “Today” co-anchor will kick off her syndicated daytime chatfest, “The Meredith Vieira Show,” Sept. 8. (It will air on WMAQ-Channel 5 in Chicago).
Vieira, 60, talked about her latest venture Monday at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills. It will be taped in Manhattan’s 30 Rock, down the hall from “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
Vieira admitted it’s “really scary” to helm her own show, adding that she initially didn’t want her name in the title.
“We couldn’t come up with anything else,” she said.
The show will have a house band led by E Street Band percussionist Everett Bradley, but just because there’s music don’t expect Vieira to make like Ellen DeGeneres and bust a move. (“I can’t dance,” she said.) Vieira tapped her longtime Chicago friend and Hillshire Brands spokesman Jon Harris to be her announcer. Vieira also will have a dog on set — a set modeled after her own living room — although it won’t be her real dog. That one almost bit a photographer’s testicles, she said.
Vieira, who also spent 11 years hosting the game show “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” plans to chat with real people about topical issues and go light on celebrity guests. (They all say that — at first.)
Watching Vieira promote her new show gave me flashbacks to others who’ve come here in recent years touting their eponymous talkers: Katie Couric, Ricki Lake, Jeff Probst, Bethenney Frankel. None of those worked out too well.
Vieira hopes the key to her success will be authenticity.
“The audience can smell a fake a mile away, not that the shows that have failed are because the people who front them are phony,” she said. “But I think that [viewers] want real, and they want to connect with somebody.”
A reporter asked if Vieira would have entertained the idea of returning to “The View,” which recently purged its cast, except for Whoopi Goldberg. Vieira’s former co-host on that show, Rosie O’Donnell, is returning.
“I knew after nine years that it was my time to leave ‘The View,'” she said. “I have a pretty good sense of timing, and I always like to get out before something bad happens.”
That one elicited laughter from the crowd.
“Having gone back several times and being greeted very lovingly each time, be it ‘The View’ or ‘Today,’ you realize you really can’t go home again,” she said. “I’m sort of the aunt, the crazy aunt who took off, and now she’s back. So no, I’d love to go as a guest, and I love those ladies, certainly Whoopi and Rosie and whoever else they get. And I wish them the best.” (WGN Morning News’ Ana Belaval will guest host on Tuesday’s show.)
As for how O’Donnell will do, Vieira said “it should be interesting.”
“She always was very political,” Vieira said. “She’s extremely outspoken. That’s not going to change.”
Vieira said she’d like have O’Donnell on her show to talk about heart health. (O’Donnell suffered a heart attack a few years ago.)
“That heart scare, that really did a number on her,” Vieira said. “It softened her. Any incident like that changes you.”
I asked Vieira what she thought about Jenny McCarthy lasting only one season on “The View.”
“Our business is so subjective,” she said. “There was a lot of housecleaning, so to speak. A lot of people behind the scenes that I know very well we’re told in the morning, ‘You’re done.’”
As for the possibility of adding a man to “The View” panel, Vieira doesn’t think that’s a good idea.
“I like men occasionally coming in, at least I did when I was on,” she said. “I love men but it threw the show off. It was a different show for me. If they want to do it, it’ll be a different show.”
Creating the new “View” is no simple task, she said.
“So many times we’d have a guest cohost and they’d be very smart and charming but the chemistry didn’t work,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s truly about the chemistry. That’s not easy.”
At least Vieira won’t have to worry about that in her new solo gig.