5 August 2006 | DeanNYC
The View, In Context
The View was first stated by news legend Barbara Walters as a program with a meaning: a discussion of various topics from five different women of differing ages and cultural backgrounds. It was to be a think tank for women to look at their lives and see how they fit with the world! With the program telecast live to most of the Eastern and Central time zones and a fresh concept, this seemed new and worthwhile.
The original cast featured newswoman Meredith Vieira, who had previously worked on "60 Minutes" and other news programs on CBS. She quickly became the de facto leader of the company, representing the 40somethings.
Star Jones made a name for herself during the O.J. Simpson trial. Her reporting was often insightful and worthwhile and was in her 30s when the program began.
Joy Behar was a stand up comic and a quick-witted, jovial sort that said exactly what she thought, especially when she expected it to get a laugh and she was in the 50+ set! Last, Debbie Matenopoulos, the 20something kid who had little to no experience in broadcasting, gave the more youthful and exuberant opinion of that generation.
Problem: Five women talking at once. Ringmaster Vieira kept things in line as best she could; patterns began to form. Debbie was often ridiculed as being a no-nothing, and did sometimes say and do things that displayed her naiveté.
The show was so eager to dump Debbie, she was removed before a replacement had been selected! The "ladies" then held a nationwide search. The winner: Lisa Ling, a former correspondent for Channel One, the cable news service for grade schools.
People either saw Lisa as intelligent and charming or dull and boring, but either way, The View lived up to its name, providing useful and informative discussion during her tenure. However, this job was a mere stepping stone for Lisa. She quit and moved on to National Geographic, where she could cover stories of global import, first hand.
With the "20" chair vacant again, the show held another set of auditions. This time, the winner came from the world of reality television. "Survivor" contestant Elisabeth Filarski, who married and became Elisabeth Hasselbeck, won the job this time. Elisabeth's overt political conservatism rubbed both Star and Joy the wrong way, causing some extra friction within the group.
Meanwhile, Star was having weight problems. There were frequent segments designed to help her and those in the audience in her position, get back to a healthy figure. However, after a brief hiatus, Star came back with a slimmer new body. It was widely rumored that she had "stomach stapling" surgery, though she never confirmed (nor denied) this.
Star was also focusing on her wedding. She was to marry Al Reynolds and many episodes were about preparations for the day, including gifts, catering, and other such features. However, when the wedding itself took place, Star disallowed cameras, even those of her co-hosts.
Things came to a head in 2006. Katie Couric, longtime popular host of NBC's Today Show was offered the anchor's chair at The CBS Evening News. NBC then plucked Meredith Vieira to take over for Katie, which left a hole in The View lineup.
Barbara selected Rosie O'Donnell to replace Meredith, despite knowing that Rosie had publicly insulted Star, and the handwriting was on the wall. Star knew that this situation would be, at best, uncomfortable for her. But she never got that far. She was privately told that her contract would not be renewed for the 2006-2007 season and that she would play out the string until September, when the new season began.
Star didn't see it that way, and in a moment reminiscent of Dustin Hoffman in "Tootsie," Star went entirely off-script to voice her grievances to her co-hosts and to the world, live on the broadcast, in a candid statement that garnered national headlines.
The next day, she was off the program, permanently.
With only Joy and Elisabeth as hosts, Barbara returned to the role of everyday member of the cast for the rest of Summer 2006, and the show brought in replacement hosts to take Star's former chair.
The "Rosie" era for The View began on September 5, 2006. Where it was first predicted that Rosie, one of the most liberal voices in broadcasting, would have constant run-ins with conservative Elisabeth, what originally happened was a battle between the two stand-up voices, As Ms. O'Donnell and Ms. Behar began trying to out-joke each other. The quips and barbs (no Walters pun intended) these two hurled at each other had an undercurrent of malice that even a casual observer could note. After feedback, they have since toned down the oneupwomanship.
More recently, the show's claim to fame is in Rosie's commentary about various celebrities, including accusing Kelly Ripa of homophobia because of a comment Ripa made to American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken (who had not stated anything about his sexual preference at the time) and Donald Trump of being a hypocrite for his handling the situation with Miss USA, Tara Conner, both of which prompted quick responses from the accused parties. If nothing else, Rosie's "view" has kept the program in the news and people tuning in to see what bon mot will fall out of her mouth next.
The View began with the best of intentions, however, in catering to the all important ratings (it is head to head with Bob Barker's "The Price Is Right" in many markets), the meaning of the show's name ebbed away.
Today, it's just another talk show that is frequently louder, more meaningless and more useless than any of the other programs of its type, especially with the verbal jockeying of the Rosie era. Perhaps it's fun to watch a daily train wreck, but that wasn't what was promised from this program.