ABC is cleaning house at "The View," and what comes next is anyone's guess.
The news broke late Thursday that co-hosts Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy would not be returning to the long-running daytime talk show after the current season and that the network was planning to take "The View" in "an exciting new direction." Following the retirement last month of creator Barbara Walters, this leaves Whoopi Goldberg, moderator since 2007, as the last woman standing at the program.
On Twitter, McCarthy suggested she was leaving "The View" out of loyalty to Shepherd, but a source familiar with the negotiations not authorized to speak publicly indicated that while Shepherd wil be departing because of an inability to agree on terms for a new contract, McCarthy was let go for creative reasons.
McCarthy and Shepherd are expected to complete the remainder of the season, unlike Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who abruptly signed off from "The View" last summer just a day after it was announced she was leaving for "Fox & Friends."
Friday's episode of "The View" was pre-taped on Wednesday, so the co-hosts did not address the shuffle on the air, and it will be at least another week before they do: The show is on hiatus until July 7, but speculation is already rampant about what "The View's" "new direction" might look like.
In recent weeks the show has featured a number of male guests hosts, including "Apprentice" star Bill Rancic and former NFL quarterback Jesse Palmer, prompting rumors that "The View" is planning to ditch its signature all-female lineup and add a male panelist, like Fox News' recently launched "Outnumbered." (Another name being floated is that of Ross "The Intern" Matthews, who has also guest-hosted in the past.)
TMZ has also reported that former moderator Rosie O'Donnell, who infamously clashed with Hasselbeck over the Iraq war, might be returning to the show.
Of course, media observers already have plenty of suggestions on the future of "The View," with some saying "just cancel it," others encouraging producers to hire some younger women, and others pointing out that Diane Sawyer would be a great replacement for Walters and will have free time on her hands come this fall.
An ABC representative would say only that no decisions have been made about the next phase of "The View."
Such behind-the-scenes drama is nothing new at the 17-year-old program -- just ask Debbie Matenopoulos -- but there's also no question the show has endured some particularly acute growing pains in recent seasons.
Sensing that viewers had grown tired of partisan sparring, producers gave "The View" a dramatic makeover last summer, sending both the conservative Hasselbeck and liberal Joy Behar packing after many years on the couch.
However, the decision to hire McCarthy, one of the most visible proponents of the thoroughly discredited theory linking childhood vaccines to autism, provoked widespread criticism. While she has not voiced these opinions on the air, the former Playboy model has continued to face backlash on social media.
Walters also retired in May, leaving the show without its creator and, maybe even more critically, the last professionally trained journalist on the panel.
In addition to the internal turmoil, "The View" also faces stiff ratings competition from insurgent CBS imitator "The Talk," and will face even more when "The Real," which puts a diverse spin on the all-female format, debuts in syndication in September.
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