For the past 16 years, four (sometimes five) women have been holding court weekday mornings on ABC's "The View," interviewing celebrities and newsmakers and dissecting and debating the day's hottest topics. Today, a new player joins that spirited, estrogen- loaded panel of hosts -- Jenny McCarthy, the actress and former Playboy Playmate, whose controversial view that childhood immunizations cause autism has earned her both fans and foes.
But when have panelists on "The View" not inspired both love and hate from viewers?
Barbara Walters -- who created the show and returns this season to host it, along with Whoopi Goldberg and Sherri Shepherd -- may be the most unscathed because the longtime newswoman has tried hard to remain politically neutral and above the fray. Nonetheless, Rosie O'Donnell, the show's moderator from 2006 to 2007, has famously feuded with the venerable Walters and even told Bravo host Andy Cohen in 2012 that her new employer, Oprah Winfrey, is "much more used to being the boss of a lot of people" than her "View" boss was.
Having watched "The View" quite selectively over the years (translation: when I had to watch it for work), I'm not quite sure what its big appeal is. But a friend and colleague, who works from home and has seen "The View" a lot more than I have, tells me that all of the hosts have had fans and haters and this, in fact, might even be part of the reason people watch -- to cheer and to jeer. My sister, who's conservative, loved Elisabeth Hasselbeck and detested the liberal comedian Joy Behar, while I loved Joy and disliked Elisabeth -- both of whom recently left "The View." (According to an article in The Hollywood Reporter last March, before either host announced her departure, a study commissioned by "The View" found that viewers found Hasselbeck and Behar to be too politically polarizing.)
Those two are only the latest panelists to leave "The View."
Remember Debbie Matenopoulos? She was a host from 1997 to 1999. Others who have left since the show's debut on Aug. 11, 1997: In addition to O'Donnell, there was Lisa Ling (1999 to 2002); Meredith Vieira (1997 to 2006); and Star Jones (1997 to 2006). And Walters is set to retire from the show -- and from broadcasting -- in 2014.
There have been times when I've derisively thought of "The View" as a forum for a bunch of peahens to pick at the news -- and one another.
But my real beef with the show is the time it airs -- 11 a.m. weekdays, when many of us are working. Walters envisioned "The View" to be "dynamic women of different ages, experiences and backgrounds discussing the most exciting events of the day," as ABC press materials put it. Yet, most working women have probably gotten to watch only a handful of episodes of the chat-fest live. Who can do that unless they work at home or have a very lenient workplace?
The show is now available to watch online daily at 4 p.m., but that may be an even worse time for working women.
Why is it that women talk-show hosts on the broadcast networks are mostly relegated to daytime TV? (Yes, "The View" is considered a daytime show.)
Sure, you can DVR programs like "The View" -- and CBS' "The Talk" -- but by the time you get home, you may be more interested in watching prime-time programs.
So why couldn't shows like "The View" air much later? Plenty of women are night owls. And even if someone didn't want to stay up too late, she could catch some of the show. Do all the late-night stars on the major networks have to be men?
Let's see, on the onetime "Big Three" networks, there's David Letterman and Craig Ferguson (CBS), Jimmy Kimmel (ABC), Jay Leno and the soon-to-succeed-him Jimmy Fallon (NBC). Critics blame Joan Rivers, who tried, and failed, at her own Fox late-night talk show, forever proving that women just don't have the gravitas to carry a nighttime program. But Rivers had been a very successful guest host for Johnny Carson. And how many men have also failed in those late hours? "The Chevy Chase Show," for example, is considered a late- night disaster.
And so, we only find women helming their own nighttime shows on cable networks like CNN (Erin Burnett, 7 p.m.) or MSNBC (Rachel Maddow, at 9 p.m. ) or HLN (Jane Velez-Mitchell, at 7, and Nancy Grace, at 8).
Although "The View" still pulls in more than 3 million viewers a day, last season, the show was down 11 percent in total viewers and 19 percent in the key women 25-54 demographic, the primary target of daytime television, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Clearly, ABC hopes that McCarthy, a frequent guest host on "The View" (who had a late-night talk show on VH1 that didn't exactly get blockbuster ratings) will help fix that problem.
But what about the other issue? The time thing?
I'll make it a point to watch McCarthy's debut today, but beyond that, I don't know. At 11 a.m. weekdays, I'm kind of busy with other things.
A service of YellowBrix, Inc.
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