'The View' Begins Its 'Brand New' 18th Season

New York—ABC's The View debuted its completely revamped eighteenth season Monday, Sept. 15. Gone were its former set, 17-year executive producer Bill Geddie, retired leading lady Barbara Walters, and moderators Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy.

In their place was a brand new look, a sleek white palette with orange and blue accents, former Rachel Maddow Show executive producer Bill Wolff, and three new hosts for the season. Outspoken lightening rod Rosie O'Donnell returned to the show after leaving in 2007 while past MSNBC contributor and Republican strategist Nicolle Wallace and entertainer Rosie Perez took their full-time hosting seats for the first time.

"When I found out it was these two I felt like I won the lottery," said O'Donnell on coming back to the show with her new cohosts Wallace and Perez. The TV veteran seemed right at home on stage immediately taking off her shoes, to stretch her legs due to a bout of sciatica, and showing off her brand new pedicure.

During commercial breaks she walked around playing moderator, answering questions about Madonna (they're still good friends and both dealing with their respective children leaving for college), an HBO comedy special slated for February and her weight loss via a vertical gastric sleeve. "I'm going to do this for the next two weeks until I get bored of it," said O'Donell. "But today I'm enthusiastic."

Whoopi Goldberg, who filled O'Donnell's spot in 2007, was the only returning host from last season and also showed off her—very covered—tootsies as well. Audience members were enthralled by the long-time moderator's Charlotte Olympia multi-colored stilettos.

The mood at the premiere was upbeat. 'Float On' by Modest Mouse and Icona Pop's 'I Don't Care' played before the show while Taylor Swift's newest single about letting go of the past, 'Shake It Off,' appropriately played in and out of the broadcast.

ABC news president James Goldston and Sandy Kenyon, movie critic for Eyewitness news and yellow taxi cabs everywhere, were in the audience clapping with the rest of the crowd. Barbara Walters appeared in a pre-taped hand off to the new hosts, in a throne and crown befitting The View queen that she is, and could be heard backstage talking about the importance of chemistry for the panel.

Although The View is nearing the age of a college freshman, the past two seasons were on par with the 2004-2006 years. Ratings have held at a 2.4 with just under 2.8 million viewers tuning in to see Barbara and co. gab about the day's issues. But viewership for women 25-54 has dropped 14% since the 2011-12 season.

This year competition will increase. Not only will The View go up against CBS' all-female panel on The Talk, Fox syndicated stations will air The Real featuring women all 44-years-old or less.

With a former MSNBC producer in the driver's seat as well as Wallace's background as a political analyst, Perez's stints as a Rachel Maddow guest, and vocally liberal O'Donnell taking a second shot at moderating, the show seems ready to take a more political turn. Despite the probability of a more Washington-focused Hot Topics section, which will now feature a newsy intro according a Variety interview with O'Donnell, guests for premiere week hail mostly from Hollywood. Actresses Jessica Chastain and Kirsten Dunst along with comedian Billy Crystal are all scheduled to join the new panel by Friday.

Co-producer Brian Balthazar, who launched the Kathy Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb hour of Today, emphasized the importance of cohesion over political passion. "I think really it was finding the right people that blend well together and communicate their points of view." he said to B&C.

But, an insiders look into Washington is a bonus. "It certainly doesn't hurt with an election coming up that we're going to have four people who are very passionate about the issues," said Balthazar. "We all kind of want to know what's happening behind closed doors and I think that's what's so exciting about Nicole. She can not just tell us about what the president said but she also can tell us what was probably going through his mind."