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'The View' goes for bite

Whoopi Goldberg would likely be a rough replica of O'Donnell.

July 28, 2007|Matea Gold | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The likely addition of Whoopi Goldberg to "The View" would guarantee the ABC daytime talk show a regular source of controversy and salty humor, ingredients that helped lift the program's ratings during Rosie O'Donnell's provocative tenure.

Goldberg, a front-runner to replace O'Donnell, is known for her liberal politics and barbed comedy. In 2004, she famously derided President Bush during a Democratic fundraiser by invoking a sexual pun that played off his name.

When the bit provoked scandalized laughter from the audience, Goldberg responded: "C'mon, you knew this was coming. It's what I'm trying to explain to people: Why you asking me to come if you don't want me to be me?"

The off-color routine was sharply criticized by Republicans, and Goldberg lost her gig as a spokeswoman for Slim-Fast because of the controversy.

In turning to Goldberg to help co-host its daytime gabfest, ABC executives appear to be striving to replicate the kind of buzz that surrounded "The View" during O'Donnell's tumultuous time on the program, when her outspoken remarks and clashes with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck regularly drew headlines.

"She is exactly what the show needs," said Hollywood publicist Howard Bragman, whose former public relations firm represents Goldberg. "She is a beloved brand name, she is outspoken, she has done this before, she is a person of color, she is as far left as Rosie, she lives in New York and she can kick Elizabeth Hasselbeck's

."

Goldberg will likely be joined on "The View" by Sherri Shepherd, another stand-up comedian and actress. Final negotiations with the duo are underway, and an announcement of their hiring is expected next week, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

ABC declined to comment. "We have nothing to announce right now," said spokesman Karl Nilsson.

For the last several months, producers have been weighing how to fill the empty seats on the 10-year-old program left by O'Donnell and Star Jones Reynolds, who was never permanently replaced after her own rancorous exit in 2006.

With just Hasselbeck, Joy Behar and Barbara Walters remaining on the all-woman panel, executive producer Bill Geddie indicated that he was looking to add at least one African American voice.

"We have, really, two positions open, I think people forget," Geddie said in June. "We got a lot of hiring to do here. So the chances of us hiring two white women

not very likely."

Goldberg and Shepherd are both familiar to "The View" audience after having made guest appearances on the program.

O'Donnell was rooting for Goldberg as her replacement, telling readers of her blog this spring that her fellow comic "would rock."

Known for her acerbic sense of humor, the 51-year-old Goldberg has had a long career in television, beginning with HBO's "Comic Relief," which helped launch a prolific career. Since then, she's done stints on shows like "Star Trek: The Next Generation," appeared in numerous TV movies and headlined the short-lived sitcom "Whoopi."

After spending six years writing and producing Lifetime's "Strong Medicine," Goldberg has most recently been hosting a syndicated morning radio show called "Wake Up With Whoopi."

Shepherd, 40, has appeared in shows such as "The Wedding Bells" and "Less Than Perfect." Her latest movie, "Who's Your Caddy," opened Friday.

matea.gold@latimes.com

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Times staff writer Lynn Smith contributed to this report.

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