We've had nearly 11 months to process the news that Barbara Walters is retiring from television, but any reminder we get of her impending absence still comes as a shock. So it was hard to believe that on Monday, Walters announced that her final day of hosting The View is barely six weeks away. Friday, May 16, will mark Walters' last regular appearance on daily television, although her behind-the-scenes role will stay prominent; in an announcement, ABC News reported that Walters will continue to executive produce The View, as well as act as a contributor to ABC News.
The reveal of Walters' last day came just a few hours before Monday's episode of The View, and so it was fitting that the show devoted substantial time to acknowledging its leader's upcoming leave. After a standing ovation, Walters addressed the news, saying that although she will no longer regularly appear on the show, she's "not leaving television entirely."
“Many of you have had to put up with me since your childhood — and, you’re not free of me yet,” she said.
In typical Walters fashion, the host also made fun of fellow executive producer Bill Geddie, who will stay on with the show, saying that she looks forward to watch him "get older and balder... as I get blonder."
Of all the people present, Walters' co-hosts seemed the most upset by the news, with Sherri Shepherd gushing over Walters' influence on TV.
“How does it make you feel to know every show pretty much that is on the air is The View?” Shepherd asked, adding that Walters "created something that people have taken from over the years... everything started with The View."
Walters appreciated the praise, but reiterated her previous statements that as sad as it is to leave the show, she knows "that it's time."
Said Walters, "I don’t want people to say, ‘Is she still here?’”
Thankfully, the legacy of the self-described "lifelong member" of ABC's news team will last long after Walters' final appearance on The View. During the week leading up to that Friday, The View will host a week-long celebration, and on the night of her retirement, there will be a two hour primetime special on the network honoring Walters' 50-plus year career. ABC News also announced that their New York headquarters will be renamed The Barbara Walters Building during a dedication ceremony.
“In this business there are legends, there are icons, and then there is Barbara Walters,” said Robert A. Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive of The Walt Disney Company in a statement. "It’s impossible to fully convey her impact and influence on television."
TV — and feminism — would certainly not have been the same without Walters, the first woman ever to co-host a morning show (The Today Show) as well as the first female co-anchor of a network evening newscast (20/20). Throughout her career, she's conducted an astounding 800+ interviews, including every president since Nixon, Margaret Thatcher, and Saadam Hussein, among other powerful individuals. Her yearly specials, such as her "10 Most Fascinating People," are consistently top-rated, and, as Shepherd said, The View, love it or hate it, has influenced shows ranging from Rachael Ray to The View. Simply put, the impact Walters has had on our culture is incomparable.
As for what Walters plans to do next, the exact plans are unknown, but they'll definitely be a change from her current day-to-day life. Back in May, she said that she had no intention of joining another program, instead planning to "sit on a sunny field and admire the very gifted women -- and okay, some men, too -- who will be taking my place." Recently, Walters told AARP Magazine that she wants to "go to a movie or a museum, maybe sleep until 9, maybe see a friend," adding that she looks "forward to not having every day planned, or having to be at a certain place at a certain time."
Or perhaps her real plans are a bit... saucier. While appearing on The View on Monday, Joan Rivers mentioned the "coincidence" of David Letterman retiring a week after Walters. "It's time America knew," Rivers said. "They're —"
And bleep. Walters just laughed, reprimanding Rivers and reminding her that upon her own retirement, the two women are "going to go traveling," but the damage was done. Safe to say that whatever Walters does next, may it be traveling with Rivers, hanging out with Letterman, or wielding her massive influence behind-the-scenes, it'll certainly be worth watching.