- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A very fine ‘View’

Last year’s presidential election was a boon for cable news networks, but it also proved to be a windfall for daytime’s hottest show, “The View.”

Although it’s not a news program, ABC’s morning chatfest made its share in the run-up to the election, popping up on programs such as “Saturday Night Live” and “The O’Reilly Factor” and becoming a hot property on YouTube, Variety notes. It drew its largest audience ever the morning after Barack Obama was elected president — 6.2 million — and has carried that momentum well into the new year, the trade publication reports.

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“The View” is easily enjoying its most-watched season to date, averaging a daily audience of 4.2 million viewers, well ahead of last year’s 3.5 million. Moreover, it also has zoomed up the daytime rankings in the key female demographics.

Brian Frons, ABC Daytime president, says he thinks the election brought “The View” to the front burner for a lot of viewers but that the show, which premiered in 1997, has really found its groove in the past few years.

“We used to be an internally focused show, more introspective, but now we’re more outwardly looking,” Mr. Frons says. “Rosie [O’Donnell, a former moderator] looked out into the society, and we have built and grown from that.

“We have a group of diverse, intelligent women who filter the news and say, ‘Here’s how we feel about it, and here are some things for you to think about.’”

Whoopi Goldberg took over as moderator in September 2007, teaming with Elisabeth Hasselbeck, recent addition Sherri Shepherd, original co-host Joy Behar — and, for three or so days a week, series co-executive producer Barbara Walters.

“There’s more an alchemy now, and the panel feels fresher,” Mr. Frons says. “They still surprise each other and the audience every day.”

Miss Walters, who serves as executive producer alongside Bill Geddie, says the show has become less reliant on guests because of its popular co-hosts, who engage in lively, sometimes heated, discussions about the day’s headlines. Indeed, the “hot topics” section that kicks off each episode typically accounts for half of the show, if not more, on some days.

“Other programs have tried to copy us, but it doesn’t work,” Miss Walters says. “We all have a point of view, and it brings out a combination of political, intelligent and funny, which is unusual.

“This cast has ‘it,’ and that’s not always the case.”

Star, HBO reunite

Darren Star is back at HBO.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the creator of one of the premium cable network’s signature series, “Sex and the City,” has inked a two-year first-look deal with HBO.

Under the agreement, Mr. Star will create a series, his first solo creation in nearly a decade. He also will shepherd comedy and drama projects from other writers, THR says.

“They say you can never go home again, but with this deal at HBO, I feel I am,” Mr. Star says.

“I can say from my fortunate experience that there is nothing in the world quite like having a series on HBO.”

Mr. Star’s past experience at HBO, however, was mostly with the network’s previous regime — both on “Sex” and on his most recent project there, “Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl,” which was put in development by Chris Albrecht, the network’s former chairman and chief executive.

Still, Mr. Star says he already has developed great rapport with HBO’s new top programming team, Richard Plepler, Michael Lombardo and Sue Naegle, whom he called “the best creative allies one could hope for.”

In addition to the Emmy-winning “Sex,” Mr. Star’s series-creator credits include Fox’s “Beverly Hills, 90210” and its spinoff, “Melrose Place” — both enjoying a second life with their CW updates — as well as the critically praised WB comedy “Grosse Pointe.”

‘Burn’ burns up ratings

The second-season finale of “Burn Notice” on USA continued to establish the series as one of the stronger performers on cable, drawing a series high 2.7 million in the prized 18-to-49 demographic and more than 6 million viewers overall despite competition from a new “ER” on NBC and “Eleventh Hour” on CBS, broadcastingcable.com reports.

To date this year, “Burn Notice” is the top series on cable among viewers 18 to 49, often drawing more viewers than new episodes of TNT’s powerhouse, “The Closer.”

On tap tonight …

The Biggest Loser ( 8 p.m., NBC) — A shocking and ugly confrontation between one of the contestants and their trainer provides the night’s fireworks.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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