Meredith Vieira Says ‘The View’ Became ‘More About Acting Than Connecting’ Before She Left
Seasoned journalist Meredith Vieira came to The View with solid credentials to her name. As a former 60 Minutes correspondent, Vieira earned the title of show moderator when the daytime talk show launched on ABC in 1997.
When Vieira received an offer from NBC to take the seat vacated by Katie Couric on the Today Show in 2006, she felt it was the perfect opportunity to take on a new challenge.
A new ‘View’ for Vieira
In August 1997, The View debuted on ABC with Vieira, Joy Behar, Star Jones, Debbie Matenopoulos, and show creator Barbara Walters at the now-infamous table. At first, Vieira had been reluctant to try out for the gig since she still had a soft spot for hard news.
“I remember being very hesitant about even going to audition,” Vieira told Time. “I wasn’t somebody who watched daytime. I was working, and it had never been an area of television that interested me.”
Despite her concerns, Vieira joined the panel and stayed on the show until NBC came calling in 2006.
Vieira gets Couric’s seat
Toward the end of 2005 when network execs discovered that fan favorite Couric was planning on leaving the coveted Today post, then-President of NBC’s Television Group Jeff Zucker had his eye on Vieira to fill the vacancy and called a meeting with The View panelist.
“I remember saying ‘You’re skewing a little old,'” Vieira recalled to Ramin Setoodah, author of Ladies Who Punch: The Explosive Inside Story of The View. “It was the weirdest conversation.”
While Vieira knew she would hate the early morning wake-up call each day, she realized that landing the co-anchor spot on the iconic NBC news program was too good to pass up. “I started to think about, ‘You can have this opportunity at the Today Show. It’s the number one show,'” Vieira told Setoodah. “‘Will you kick yourself if you don’t do this? Will you always regret it?'”
Time to go
Vieira was also feeling restless due to behind-the-scenes drama on The View. Jones, who became engaged to Al Reynolds at one point, had reportedly overstepped her bounds in planning her nuptials and was dominating air time with swapping branding plugs for wedding freebies.
“I certainly didn’t like the idea of the show revolving around one person,” the former Today anchor said. “I thought that was dangerous territory. But the show let that happen. I can’t fault Star.”
The fallout from the negativity that Jones’ product placement deals drew enforced a rule that no ABC Daytime employees be allowed to accept gifts. When The View planned a segment on Vieira getting a home renovation, there were rumors that she was getting a free kitchen out of the deal.
“I was never going to get a free kitchen,” Vieira insisted. “I think they used me as a scapegoat, because I never got anything. It was a really obnoxious period.”
With tensions mounting off-camera, Vieira knew it was time to move on. “The show was evolving. It didn’t feel the same way,” she shared. “If you don’t feel the same way, you should go. The vibe was getting weird. There was just a lot stuff in the air. I felt like it was becoming a little bit more about acting than connecting.”
Though Vieira was emotional when she officially accepted the offer from Zucker to co-anchor Today, she knew she was making the right choice. “I was crying. I was scared,” she admitted to Setoodah. “But I knew it was the right time to do it. I felt like at The View I wasn’t growing anymore. And that wasn’t a good thing.”
Vieira’s ‘View’ on the show now
The former View moderator has previously commented on the show’s political focus over the past few years, recognizing that the program has to keep in step with changing times.
“I’ll see the clips, like a lot of people do. I’m thrilled that The View continues to be relevant and reinvent itself,” she told the Los Angeles Times in August. “And quite frankly those political candidates would not come on that show unless they felt there was a real need to be on that show. So they’ve touched a chord with people in this country.”
Though the former Today star isn’t a fan of some of the heightened debates the show currently seems to spotlight, Vieira realizes that verbal sparring is now a staple on many television shows.
“I’m not a yeller. I think discourse in general on television has become that way — a lot of fire, a lot of heat,” she said. “When I was hosting, it was all about no crosstalk,” she said. “Let somebody have their say and then the next person. But now that’s kind of part of the mishegoss that’s part of the game.”
Now hosting the game show 25 Words or Less, Vieira enjoys visiting her old stomping grounds but wouldn’t want her seat back. “I’m sort of the crazy aunt of The View,” she said. “You can’t go home again. I wish them the best.”