After Joy Behar’s announced she would be leaving “The View” after 16 years on the daytime show, it was only moments before the rumors about Elisabeth Hasselbeck following her out the door began. Barbara Walters even went so far as to attempt to dismiss them while on air, saying, “We have no plans for Elisabeth to leave this show,” before ominously adding, “When one of you makes the choice to leave, that is your choice, and we will support your decision.” Uh-huh. Most people interpreted that as a Hollywood way of saying Hasselbeck shouldn’t let the door hit her in the butt on her way out as she makes “the choice to leave” her parking pass with the front desk and let security escort her to her car.
Hasselbeck, who has been on the show for nine years, has frequently been a lightning rod for controversy, especially when the show has tackled political themes. During Rosie O’Donnell’s stint on the show, their quarrels over the war in Iraq became the stuff of split-screen legend. After O’Donnell left, Hasselbeck still had plenty to disagree about with co-hosts Behar and Whoopi Goldberg, though sometimes found common ground with Sherri Shepherd and always a referee in Barbara Walters, who made it clear her journo status required she remain mostly neutral. It turns out that all that bickering may, if you believe Us Weekly‘s unnamed source, be her undoing, at least on “The View.”
“The viewers they polled all said she was too extreme and right-wing,” a show insider told Us Weekly. “People did not watch the show because of Elisabeth.”
I can’t say I was ever a fan of Hasselbeck’s. Maybe it was because she was so clearly outnumbered on the show, but she tended to play a high-pitched defense whenever a political hot topic was tossed onto the table, seeming more Chihuahua-like than truly insightful. It wasn’t that I did or didn’t agree with her as much as she seemed too easily whipped into a frenzied state in defending her beliefs. While it could be argued her willingness to duke it out made for dramatic television, it wasn’t actually good political debate. Watching her and O’Donnell scream at one another never made me want to root for either side. It just made me want to turn off the television and take an Excedrin.
Still, Hasselbeck served an important role on the show in that, as a staunchly Republican mom, she gave voice to beliefs that are probably held by many viewers but are otherwise unrepresented on the show. Given that she was up for “The View” job against another devoted Republican (Rachel Campos-Duffy of MTV’s “The Real World,” whose husband is Republican congressman Sean Duffy), there was an understanding by top brass that someone had to provide an alternate view as the show increasingly tackled politically-themed current events. Maybe they’d felt Lisa Ling was too eager to find common ground and they wanted someone to mix things up. They definitely got that with Hasselbeck, who seems as happy to discuss her gluten-free diet and her kids as she is to defend conservative policy.
To her credit, Hasselbeck doesn’t just toe a party line, having been a passionate supporter of gay marriage (not exactly a beloved topic for most of the Republican party). She’s fought for her beliefs without getting too nasty or personal with the co-hosts she has to see day after day. Even O’Donnell claimed she and Hasselbeck were political rivals while “personally friends.” Of course, that could just be more of the spin “The View” puts on any off-screen unpleasantness (which accounts for why Behar got a chance to paint her exit as voluntary when rumors have suggested her contract just wasn’t renewed).
But I guess after nine years, it’s all started to wear a little thin. Hasselbeck is cute and upbeat and ultimately one note, a note that’s been playing an awfully long time. More than that, though, I think “The View” is looking to mix things up in a different way. While the show (thanks to Walters) has had more influential politicians taking the couch than you’d expect on other non-news network daytime programs (hey, the President and his wife have both stopped by to chat more than once), I wouldn’t be surprised if producers and ABC are looking to change focus.
The more hey-we’re-just-gals-talking-about-stuff “The Talk” has been nipping at the heels of “The View” in the ratings. Having struggled through its own staffing issues (I think viewers may have given the show a second chance once seemingly hyperactive Leah Remini was given the boot), “The Talk” has found its rhythm. No one’s likely to learn much watching “The Talk,” but it’s questionable how much anyone was learning from “The View”‘s political pieces, either. Ultimately, daytime TV viewers want to be entertained, sometimes by watching on-screen personalities to whom they can relate. Maybe these days, even if they can relate to a particular point of view, they can do without the screaming.
Do you think it’s time for Elisabeth Hasselbeck to go?