Meredith Vieira is an unlikely TV star. So unlikely, in fact, that she didn’t even want to name her own show after herself, but was stuck with The Meredith Vieira Show when she couldn’t come up with anything better.
“I think it's really scary, I didn't even want it to be [the show's] name, I didn’t want the responsibility that comes with it. But people who know me, know that name. I've been doing this for 40 years and I am who I am,” Vieira, 60, told reporters at a Monday lunch during the TCA summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton.
NBCUniversal Domestic Television Distribution is debuting The Meredith Vieira Show in national syndication on Monday, Sept. 8, with clearances in most of the country. The show is a daytime strip that will lead into NBCU’s Steve Harvey and Warner Bros.’ Ellen on many of the NBC owned and operated stations. It will have a traditional talk-show feel, but Vieira and her executive producer, Rich Sirop, offered a few hints at what the show will feel like.
Vieira also fielded a few questions about the drama swirling around at her alma mater, The View, She defended The View’s decision to return Rosie O’Donnell to the panel, and said she found former co-panelist Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s recent public comments about O’Donnell “upsetting, I really did. I think it shouldn’t have been said. I don’t know the motivation, but I’ve always had a wonderful relationship with Elisabeth.”
In light of all of the drama swirling around The View over the past couple of weeks, Hasselbeck has been making a point of criticizing O'Donnell's views toward American military policy on her own Fox News show, Fox & Friends.
Vieira also said she didn't think she would return to the show if circumstances were different. "You can’t come home again," she said. "I knew after nine years it was my time to leave The View ... I love to go on as a guest, and I love those ladies.”
Similarly to The View, each episode of The Meredith Vieira Show will start off with an off-the-cuff chat with viewers. Vieira's version will be called “The List,” which will be take on the day’s events, much like Live with Kelly and Michael’s opening banter, Wendy Williams’ Hot Topics or Ellen’s opening monologue. The chat will just be Vieira sharing her thoughts and her life with viewers. Vieira’s brother just passed away this week due to Alzheimer’s disease, and she said that if she was on the air right now, she would talk about it.
Still, Vieira will never be alone up there, she says. Band leader Everett Bradley of the E Street Band and his four female band members as well as announcer and close friend John Harris also will be on stage, giving her some banter buddies. The set-up is much like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon’s, which tapes just down the hall at 30 Rockefeller Center in studio 6B.
“There’s so many crazy looking people walking those hall and we'll drag them in,” Vieira joked, although NBC’s ability to serve as a one-stop for celebrities on promotional tour can only help with bookings.
The Meredith Vieira Show is all about having a comfortable feel, with its set designed in the likeness of Vieira’s living room, including furniture that’s been similarly battered by pets. Vieira is going to go so far as having a trained service dog on set every day that will then be given to a deserving viewer at the end of every week.
The series will include some game elements, considering that Sirop executive produced Disney-ABC’s Who Wants to be a Millionaire for 11 years while Vieira was host. Bandleader Bradley also will have a greater role than just leading the band.
“Everett Bradley is really a good human being and that’s the reason we chose him to be in our band,” said Sirop. “We're going to do Everett-o-grams where we go out with the band in the field and deliver a message. In one segment, we feature a kid who wanted to ask another kid to prom and we helped him form a song and deliver his message.”
In the end, what Vieira is most comfortable with is telling other people’s stories.
“I can’t wait for us to start because I think once we’ll start, I’ll get into a rhythm. When you are interviewing other people, it’s all about them.”
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