NEW YORK, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- The Season 18 premiere of The View began Monday with the hosts approaching a throne and kneeling to kiss the ring of the show's now-retired creator Barbara Walters.
"Thank you, my pals. This is wonderful, but it's unnecessary because, of course, you have my blessings. Now go out there and let them see why we have the best show on daytime television. I don't know what all the fuss was about," Walters told Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie O'Donnell, Nicolle Wallace and Rosie Perez.
Goldberg's fellow Season 17 panelists -- Walters, Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy -- left the program, paving the way for newcomers Perez and Wallace. O'Donnell previously served as moderator on the show for the 2006-07 season.
Monday's episode was the first to air after a summer of celebrity deaths that included Robin Williams, Joan Rivers and Lauren Bacall.
"It's been a hell of a couple of months," Goldberg noted.
O'Donnell added she was "gutted" by Williams' August suicide at the age of 63 after years of battling depression and drug addiction.
"For somebody like me, who has struggled so much with depression, so many people do. I've been at that place where I felt like, 'Maybe it'd be better if I weren't here.' People have said to me, 'Didn't he love his children?' Let me tell you something, when you are at that place, you can't see anything. Nothing and so it was a heartbreak. I'm still not over it. I think we need to destigimatize mental illness in this country and we need to talk a little bit about suicide," O'Donnell said.
"His ability to make me laugh is going to stay with me forever. Forever. God rest his soul," Perez said of Williams.
Later in the show, Goldberg, O'Donnell and Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth paid tribute to Rivers, a frequent guest panelist on The View, who died this month at the age of 81.
Chenoweth sang "Borrowed Angels" while video clips of Rivers played on a screen behind her.
When the song was over, O'Donnell and Goldberg hugged Chenoweth.
O'Donnell wiped away tears, while Goldberg said: "Joan always knew how to leave people laughing and nobody did it like she did. Now, she was on this show like 500,000 times. Really, she was our best friend. If we needed her, she came. It didn't matter when we called her. It was like 36 times she was on this show. 34, my bad. Please take a moment with us, The View folks, and see who she was."
Following a montage of some of her funniest bits on the chat show, Goldberg recalled: "There would be times I would be sitting on that couch and the laugh would be from deep, deep down. When you get the opportunity to see a great artist -- and she was a great artist -- it's hard when they go."
"It doesn't ever seem like it's time," Chenoweth said.