'The View' originals Meredith Vieira, Joy Behar reminisce on early days of talk show

"Behind the scenes is always a better show," Behar said on "Behind The Table."

September 14, 2021, 6:19 AM

Meredith Vieira and Joy Behar both joined “The View” when it premiered on Aug. 11, 1997, which makes it fitting that the duo came together again for the premiere of the show's special podcast series, “Behind The Table.”

The two original co-hosts return to friendly banter and conversation for this series, which celebrates the Emmy Award-winning talk show's 25th season on air. With new episodes of the podcast every Tuesday, Vieira and Behar kicked off the premiere episode to reminisce about the "good old days," as Behar called it, and how the show has evolved through the years.

Behar is the only original "View" host to still be co-hosting the current panel today. She moderates every Friday, just as she did in her return to the show in 2015.

Prior to Vieira's time on "The View," she had a long and successful career as a journalist, which began in 1979 at WCBS-TV in New York. In 1985, she became one of the hosts of CBS's newsmagazine West 57th and went on to win four Emmys for her work in that role. By 1989, Vieira became a "60 Minutes" correspondent, which made her the youngest person to join the team at that time.

In 1994, Vieira joined ABC News as one of six regular correspondents for "Turning Point." She eventually joined "The View" as the show's first-ever moderator and one of the original co-hosts.

Vieira spent nine years on the show alongside Behar. In Tuesday's premiere episode of "Behind The Table," the pair share stories of what it was like to create the show with the legendary Barbara Walters -- getting hired, fired and cracking jokes together.

While Vieira was the original moderator of "The View," Behar said she was “surprised" to learn that Walters wanted Vieira to have a sense of humor.

Although they didn't know each other aside from crossing paths in the elevators at ABC, Vieira said Walters approached her bosses at "Turning Point" to inquire about her comedic side.

"They said, 'She's a little kooky, but she's just got a sense of humor,'" Vieira recalled.

"I think she was worried that I would be a little too staid,” Vieira added. "She was looking for personality."

With a long career as a journalist, Vieira didn’t often interject her opinion into her work. She said she was "glad" to be the show’s first moderator because it offered a space for her to share her honest outlook, although she admitted that "stupid things came out of my mouth," like the time she blurted out that she doesn't wear underwear.

On the other end of the spectrum, Behar recalled the first time she was fired when she said too much and Walters ultimately rehired her -- all in one eventful evening.

Following Vieira’s announcement in 2006 that she was leaving the show, Rosie O'Donnell was set to replace Vieira as co-host and moderator of "The View," which was unknown to the public at the time. The co-hosts were sworn to secrecy as they made their way to Los Angeles for the Daytime Emmy Awards.

The original plan was to announce O'Donnell as the new moderator of "The View" at the Daytime Emmy Awards when she and Walters walked on stage together during the live, on-air ceremony. Prior to the plan's unfolding, "Entertainment Tonight" managed to squeeze the news out of Behar by asking how she felt about O'Donnell coming onto the show, to which she replied: "It's great!"

It wasn't long before Walters received a call about the disastrous exchange.

"[Walters] said to me, 'I just got a call from 'Entertainment Tonight' saying that someone told them that Rosie O'Donnell is coming on the show. And do you know who that person was?’ And I said, ‘Meredith Vieira?'" Behar recalled. "[Walters] goes, 'No, not Meredith Vieira, Joy Behar. And I want you to know I'm not renewing your contract.'"

Behar tried to convince her that it was an honest mistake, but she said Walters didn't care and called her a "loose cannon."

PHOTO: Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar, Barbara Walters, Star Jones Reynolds and Meredith Vieira.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck, Joy Behar, Barbara Walters, Star Jones Reynolds and Meredith Vieira.
Christopher Polk/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Behar said that two minutes later, Walters wanted to talk to her again.

"I said, 'Barbara, are we friends?'" Behar recalled. She said Walters replied: "'Yes. Give me your arm." And they "walked to the Emmys as if nothing happened," Behar said.

“That's Barbara,” she added.

While Behar shared her saga of hires and fires on "Behind The Table," Vieira opened up about leaving "The View" 15 years ago.

Vieira received an unexpected offer in 2006 to co-host the "Today" show. She told the story about getting hired by the morning news program and deciding to leave “The View.”

"If I don't take this, the 'Today' show, I'm always going to wonder," Vieira said.

“I would never have left 'The View.' Seriously. My contract was up, but I was going to sign again," she continued. "It was a great moment for me, but it was really hard for me to leave."

"I had nine years at 'The View' and most of that time was great. And I learned a lot," she added. "For me to suddenly offer opinions -- albeit reluctantly, very often -- was liberating in and of itself and just sort of showed another facet of me that made me more, actually, bankable as a personality.”

In the premiere episode of "Behind the Podcast," Behar also discusses the evolution of "The View" while Vieira shares how the show made it possible for her to flirt with some of her surprising career ambitions, and Behar dishes on some of her rather draw-dropping moments with Vieira as well as actress and activist Jane Fonda.

These are stories that can only be told by the women that were behind the table.

“Behind the Table” is available for free on major listening platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music, Google Podcasts, iHeartRadio, Stitcher, TuneIn, Audacy and the ABC News app.