TV’s Top Two Battlegrounds: What’s Next for Leno, ‘The View’

Battleground states: Jay Leno (top left) is battling to prevent Jimmy Fallon from taking over his show, while Barbara Walters (bottom right, with Elisabeth Hasselbeck) struggles to manage personnel changes on "The View" (Photos: NBC, ABC)

There will be no comment on “The View” this coming week about persistent reports that Elisabeth Hasselbeck will be leaving the show this summer — contrary to the strong statement of support Barbara Walters issued on the subject on March 11.

In fact, none of the “View” episodes on the schedule this Monday through Friday are “live” shows.

Instead, they were all taped in advance, and none of them will have Walters or anyone else commenting on the Hasselbeck situation, XfinityTV has learned.

And, since “The View” was in repeats this past week, the days off add up to a timely two-week break for the show just when it’s being hit with one, and possibly two, exits by long-time panel members.

The sometimes volatile late-morning talk show had enjoyed a period of relative quiet and stability since 2007, the last time it endured a series of personnel changes (Meredith Vieira, Star Jones and Rosie O’Donnell all left for various reasons between June 2006 and May 2007).

Now, with Joy Behar, 70, announcing she’ll leave this summer (amid rumors she was pressured to step down) and Hasselbeck also rumored to be leaving, “The View” has emerged as one of the two top battlegrounds in the TV biz right now.

Watch Walters’ strong statement of support for Elisabeth Hasselbeck from March 11:
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The other one, of course, is “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” where hostilities erupted between Leno and his NBC overseers on March 11 (the same day Walters came on “The View” and insisted Hasselbeck isn’t going anywhere).

That was the day “The Tonight Show” returned from a week off and Leno began a series of comedic attacks on NBC — his way of “commenting” on the reports — as yet unconfirmed by NBC — that the network is poised to replace him next year with Jimmy Fallon. That news broke about 10 days earlier, just as Leno and the “Tonight Show” team were beginning their one-week break.

Leno’s monologue jibes at NBC’s expense have continued just about nightly since that day — overtaking the story about the “View” turmoil. That story quieted down just as the Leno story was beginning to build, with Walters’ carefully worded denial that “The View” was set to axe Hasselbeck because an opinion poll conducted by ABC reportedly found that viewers didn’t like Hasselbeck and her right-leaning political views.

Walters said the story wasn’t true and noted that Hasselbeck’s point of view is something the show needs, as a counterpoint to the liberal views held by all of the other co-hosts.

Walters’ statement that day was adamant: Elisabeth isn’t leaving. And yet, stories emerged later that week that Hasselbeck is still to be driven out before next season commences in September, despite what Walters said. However, there have been no further comments from Walters or “The View” in the wake of these still-persistent reports.

While we’re on the subject, here’s Friday’s “Tonight Show” featuring Don Cheadle:
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What’s next? On the “Tonight Show” front: There’s no telling right now when Leno will tire of telling these nightly NBC jokes — apparently in defiance of his bosses’ wishes. On the other hand, the jokes are making headlines and drawing attention to “The Tonight Show” — attention the show needs right now as it battles the newest entrant in the 11:35 p.m. late-night wars, “Jimmy Kimmel Live” on ABC.

What we wonder is: When will NBC settle this matter with an official announcement about Leno and Fallon? The rumors are that the network wants it all sorted out by May, when the “upfront” selling season begins for next fall’s commercial time. The possible scenario is that NBC will announce then that Fallon will take over in summer 2014, after Leno gets a “farewell” season.

On the “View” front: Walters’ statement in support of Hasselbeck March 11 was so unequivocal that we don’t see how she can now come on the show and amend it in the face of these reports that Hasselbeck’s being driven off the show anyway. We look forward to finding out how — or if — the situation will be dealt with on the air when “The View” returns with “live” shows, presumably on April 1, the day after Easter.

Hot topic: Turmoil at ‘The View’: Our stories so far:

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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