Elisabeth Hasselbeck “voluntarily left” (read: was kicked off of) “The View” this week, and though I think it was her time to go, it’s a little sad. Whether or not you agreed with her politics, she was able to do something you wouldn’t expect from someone whose only real credential coming into the job was not dying on “Survivor.”
She stepped into the wobbly fourth seat from which Debbie Matenopoulos had been boosted after a year and Lisa Ling had abandoned after just three. Given that the fourth seat goes to “the young one,” there was no reason to get used to her being around. But Hasselbeck managed to hold her own in a room of big personalities, of older, more seasoned pros. If people hated her because of her political views, the important thing is that they still tuned in to yell at their televisions. That is, until they didn’t anymore.
There’s no need to cry for Hasselbeck, of course. She’s off to a gig more suited to her political interests on “Fox & Friends.” There she will have the unique experience of being the most liberal person in the room more often than not, and I think I can hear Rosie O’Donnell laughing somewhere.
The Hollywood Reporter claimed that, after a dip in ratings, “The View” commissioned a study to find out what viewers wanted from the show. The verdict was that, unlike the last hour of “Today” and chat shows like “The Talk,”The View” had become too contentious with Joy Behar and Hasselbeck sitting with arms crossed at opposite sides of the political spectrum. I can’t disagree. Though initially there was something exciting about watching opinionated women dive into heated discourse, I started to long for the more boring segments about daffy celebrities and making low-cal cupcakes. It quickly became clear that Behar and Hasselbeck (and Rosie O’Donnell for a hot second) weren’t really talking to one another but at one another. It was screaming that wasn’t heard. Minds were never changed. In the end, all I was left with was a headache.
So now, it looks like a more affable blonde, Jenny McCarthy, is primed to step into one of these empty slots (another name being bandied about is Brooke Shields). As long as no one suggests vaccines or autism as a hot topic, McCarthy is likely be a lighthearted member of the already comedian-heavy panel. While I don’t have a problem with McCarthy (like Hasselbeck, she’s proven herself to be more polished than we’d expect), I hope that at least one of the two remaining slots (Walters is also leaving in May 2014) is filled with someone a little more serious.
While Meredith Vieira could overshare and show a surprisingly wacky side during her tenure on the show, those light moments were memorable in part simply because we associated her with hard news. While Hoda Kotb and Kathy Lee Gifford are happily slugging back wine and telling dirty jokes on “Today,” and the ladies of “The Talk” seem happier discussing celebrities than issues, “The View” always seemed like it was trying to be a little bit, well, smarter.
Granted, a morning chat show offering diet tips and celebrity guests is never going to be, say, “Meet the Press.” It isn’t likely that people are going to “The View” to get their news for the day (or if they are, that’s pretty depressing). Still, “The View” distinguished itself by riding on Walters’ credentials to bring in major political figures (even President Obama stopped by). Hot topics were occasionally, actually hot (and not hot as defined by Kim Kardashian in a swimsuit). With Walters leaving and ratings slipping, it seems “The View” is poised to join an already crowded field of fluff, of silly gossip and brainless chatter, of crockpot recipes and weight loss tips.
For a while, the show had an admirable mix of fluff and substance, some items to think about after the rest of the show had faded from memory. Now, I’m just not sure the new blend of is going to be so easy to swallow.