Julie Chen makes the same worried statements about ‘The View’ as I do.

This morning, for the first time in months, I caught most of ‘The View’.  I have always loved ‘The View’. I’ve loved everything from the Hot Topics discussion to the interviews.  I loved the concept of the show.  I loved that Barbara Walters was bringing together women from different backgrounds to discuss Important Topics, not just topics that are supposed to be important to women (not that those aren’t important – and they discussed those too).  I loved this show.  I loved it even when Rosie and Elisabeth were at each others throats (except when Rosie was being all self-righteous about it, that was stupid).  I loved Meredith Vieira.  I loved the conversations these women were having.  I even loved commandeering the TVs at school in the abandoned student lounge to watch it between classes.   But, based on what I saw today, I don’t think I love this show anymore.

Granted, I missed most of the Hot Topics segment of the show, which, for a very long time now, has been the most worthwhile segment of the show, but what followed was a serious letdown.  I was 100% disgusted when each host got up and they told us how much money each piece of clothing cost each outfit equaling around fifty dollars, thus assuring the viewer they too can afford to dress like a celebutard.  Then they “interviewed” Tyra Banks; the most interesting part of the hideously brief conversation was at the end when they touched on Tyra’s desire for women to change the way they talk about “fat”, basically, changing how we talk about body image.  (Fun words from a Supermodel.)  But, naturally, that wasn’t the main topic of the conversation.  First they had to talk about “America’s Next Top Model” and some photoshoot Tyra did recently in which she embodied other supermodels….

After that super boring conversation, we had the top Christmas gadgets.  There was a lot of The-Price-is-Right style shouting during this bit.  I had to turn down the volume while some dude showcased useless device after useless device until Jenny McCarthy was wheeled out on a fake sleigh by a clown dressed like Santa Claus (who reasonably looked offended when Jenny said that Santa couldn’t make it there today).  This was followed by a very short interview that I did not understand with two friends (who had a show?), they dated for forty days to see if a When Harry Met Sally style romance would blossom out of their friendship.  I can’t tell you their names, the name of their project, or anything else about them, except that Jenny loves them and they “broke up” after 39 days.  The last thing I remember is an actually interesting conversation with two veterans who wrote and directed two upcoming ABC tearjerker Christmas movies.  (The one about the little girl asking Santa for her mom to come home from Afghanistan looks really good.)

Mostly, though, the episode was a letdown; it was as if there were something essential missing.

The show, when it began and for many years following, was great because it was the first and only of it’s kind.  Women discussing Current Events the way your civics teacher meant ‘Current Events’.  So many news programs are men speaking clinically about current events, emotionless, offering opinions to a camera.  ‘The View’ gave audiences – their demographic surely being mainly comprised of women, given their time slot – women’s opinions.  It went even further to give multiple women’s opinions.  Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, black, white, Asian — women were doing what women do: discussing.  Discussing topics greater than celebrity gossip or shopping or entertainment or movies.  These topics are not unimportant, but they’re the staid topics of women’s magazines and Entertainment Tonight.  ‘The View’ gave us something different.  This is why it was wonderful.

Julie Chen is being given crap for saying ABC made a mistake hiring Jenny McCarthy.  In the above video she says that they don’t know what to do with McCarthy’s talent and are not using her as well as they ought.  She says McCarthy’s personality is better suited to a show like her’s, ‘The Talk’ on CBS.  Chen reportedly said further: “Because what made ‘The View’ so popular and so good was that you had five different women from different walks of life discussing politics . . . . what put them on the map and made them good and famous – they don’t do that anymore.”  Chen is receiving a lot of negative attention for her statements, but what she says is what myself, and probably others, are thinking.  The show was great because Barbara Walters, a woman who helped lead the way for other women in a traditionally male-dominated field was, once again, doing great things for women.  This was the reason my twelve year old, budding feminist self was so ready to love ‘The View’ when it was first launched in 1997, and why I continued to love it through high school and college; this is no longer what I see when I watch this program.

I am not ready to declare Jenny McCarthy the reason for the direction ‘The View’ is headed.  It’s been slowing moving in this direction for years now.  I’m more inclined to declare the cause the lack of a journalist on the show.  Whoopi, lovely as she is, is an actress and a comedian, Sherri is an actress, Jenny is a former Playboy Bunny-turned-actress and writer.  Barbara, who is meant to be leaving the show after this season, is the only journalist on the program and, historically, when she’s not there the show isn’t as good.  Without Barbara what will become of the program?  Will it take a turn and return to it’s former glory in the Coming Days?  Or is it doomed to become another vapid women’s program offering nothing more interesting than “what’s hot this holiday season” and rushed interviews with celebrities promoting their movie or TV program?  I think it all boils down to the priorities of the hosts (and network).  As for the hosts, I haven’t much hope.  Unfortunately for the show, Barbara may just be the lynchpin.  There never has been, nor is there likely to ever be, a host of ‘The View’ as respected as Barbara Walters; not unless Christiane Amanpour makes a seriously unexpected career move.

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