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The Early Show Could Have a New View

If CBS breaks the traditional early-morning mold, The Early Show could evolve into a version of ABC's coffee-table chatfest, The View.

Especially since The View co-host Meredith Vieira, an ex-CBS employee, is reportedly at the top of CBS' wish list to replace Bryant Gumbel — who's leaving Early Show next month when his $6 million-a-year contract expires.

CBS isn't commenting, but Vieira has reportedly emerged as a top-shelf name to replace Gumbel.

Should CBS keep Early Show co-host Jane Clayson, who they're reportedly very high on, and newsreader Julie Chen — and then hire Vieira — it would give The Early Show TV's only all-female anchoring team.

Ironically, Early Show executive producer Steve Friedman, then at NBC, experimented with female co-anchors Jane Pauley and Jessica Savitch on Today while waiting for Gumbel to join the show in early 1982.

So, the precedent is there. And, across the dial on The View, the all-female concept, has paid big dividends for ABC.

Co-hosts Vieira, Barbara Walters, Star Jones, Lisa Ling and Joy Behar have led The View to some of the best 11 a.m. numbers in ABC history.

And, they've done something no other 11 a.m. show has done for ABC — given the network a successful show in an historically tricky timeslot that was once home to Mike & Maty.

More intriguing is the fact that Vieira's contract with "The View" reportedly expires in August.

Insiders say ABC approached Vieira to co-anchor "Good Morning America" - after it canned Lisa McRee and Kevin Newman - but that Vieira turned them down.

Vieira is no stranger to CBS, having co-hosted the network's prime-time magazine show, "West 57th," from 1985-89.

Vieira's agent did not return a call seeking comment.

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