The same day NBC finally got around to confirming the longstanding report that Seth Meyers would replace Jimmy Fallon as host of “Late Night” next year, ABC News finally confirmed the months-old report that Babs Walters will call it a wrap in 2014.
After 37 years with ABC News (after a stint at NBC News where she joined “Today Show” in ’61 and eventually became co-host) Babs planned to announce on Monday’s “The View” that she will retire from journalism next summer.
“No one was more surprised than I,” Babs said Sunday, in re becoming a well-known on-air talent on “Today.” “I wasn’t beautiful, like many of the women on the program before me, [and] I had trouble pronouncing my r’s. I still do!”
In ’76, she joined ABC, where she became the first female co-anchor of its evening news; three years later, she became a co-host of “20/20.”
“There’s only one Barbara Walters,” ABC News President Ben Sherwood said Sunday of the woman who crossed the Bay of Pigs with Fidel Castro, clung to the back of Sylvester Stallone’s motorcycle and famously asked Katharine Hepburn what kind of tree she would be.
“We look forward to making her final year on television as remarkable, path-breaking and news-making as Barbara herself,” Sherwood added.
Yes, until Babs takes her final bow next summer, the ABC landscape will be chock-a-block with Babs. She will continue to anchor and report for ABC News, will appear on “The View,” and will anchor specials throughout the year including a “20 Years of 10 Most Fascinating People” special in December, an Oscars special, and a May career retrospective.
Word surfaced in late March that Babs would call it a day — next year. At that time, neither ABC nor Babs had any comment, but a source familiar with the conversation told The TV Column Babs would make the announcement herself, though no time soon, rather, sometime in the coming weeks (translation: May sweep).
So here we are, in the thick of the May sweep, and it’s Broadcast Upfront Week, when the broadcast networks spends bajillions of dollars putting on dog-and-pony shows to talk up their new primetime shows and stars to advertisers. And Babs just stole ABC’s spotlight.
Fittingly, ABC News reported the announcement online under the heading: “Celebrities.”
In Sunday night’s announcement that there would be a Monday announcement, Baba limbered up by saying, “I’m very happy with my decision and look forward to a wonderful and special year ahead both on ‘The View’ and with ABC News,” she said. “I created ‘The View’ and am delighted it will last beyond my leaving it.”
Babs has been retiring for years. In 2004 she entered a state of “semi-retirement”; in 2010 she announced she was retiring from her annual Oscars special interview show; in November of that year, she interviewed Larry King on “The View” on the subject of his retirement from CNN and, true to form, made it about her when she said, “I know when my time’s coming.”And, in December of 2011, she reportedly said into an open microphone, during a break in an interview with Obama, that she was retiring the next year.
On Sunday, Babs insisted that, if asked, she would not accept another gig.
“I do not want to appear on another program or climb another mountain,” she says. “I want instead to sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women — and OK, some men too — who will be taking my place.”