Do you remember when “The View” was as close as you could get to must-see morning talk show TV? When it was seemingly a microcosm for the political debates going on between the left and right? When the chemistry between the hosts could entice surprising off the cuff answers from any guest? (Even those who thought they were just there to promote a new movie or TV show?). Yes, it's been awhile. It's been a long while and that's probably the biggest reason Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy are leaving the show.
News broke Thursday night that Shepherd, who has been a permanent co-host since 2007, and McCarthy, who joined for this past season, would not return for the show's 18the edition. Along with show co-creator Barbara Walters “retirement” that leaves only Oscar-winner Whoopi Goldberg left at the table. McCarthy was brought on board to replace the departing Elisabeth Hasslebeck and Joy Behar, but with so many guest hosts sitting in for Walters or one of the other three regulars it didn't felt like “The View” at all this past year.
Reports indicate that Shepherd and ABC, who produces the Emmy-winning program, couldn't come to terms on renewing her contract. McCarthy is spinning in social media “If Sherri goes… I go too. #sisters.” Well, that's sort of silly. The former sitcom star simply just wasn't a fit with any of the other three hosts. It was another in a series of miscalculations the show has made since bringing on Shepherd along with Goldberg to replace Rosie O'Donnell almost seven years ago.
At the time the goal was obvious. The 2008 election was beginning in earnest and two more funny ladies (actual comediennes) would help smooth the brewing tensions between the show's remaining opinionated liberal, Behar, and conservative firebrand, Hasslebeck. The season before the show had become a cultural tipping point as O'Donnell and Hasselbeck's daily debates became national news in and of themselves. It brought huge ratings and publicity, but instead of civilized debate it was increasingly veering into an angry (and often personal) version of CNN's “Crossfire.” And for a season or two the change sort of worked. Goldberg had her O'Donnell moments with Hasselbeck, but and after Obama's overwhelming victory things calmed down. But as with any team that's worked together too long it was obvious when each host was pushing the other's buttons. It got so bad that Behar and Goldberg's disdain for Hasslebeck was eventually more transparent than O'Donnell's ever was. At least Rosie would try to get Elizabeth to see a different point of view, Whoopi and Joy just told her she was wrong half the time and seemed eager for each show to just end.
The departure of Behar and Hasslebeck about a year ago was meant to solve that dynamic and make the show less confrontational and more fun, say like “Live! With Kelly and Michael,” “Today with Kathie Lee & Hoda” or, no joke, CBS' “View” ripoff “The Talk.” Instead, it made it a bore. And now, with Walters stepping back from direct involvement (or so she keeps promising) word is ABC has not only found a way to get rid of Shepherd (who also never seemed quite right at the table) and McCarthy but longtime co-creator and executive producer Bill Geddie who was a semi-off camera presence on the show. But what next? Here's a suggestion ABC: go smarter.
When “The View” first started to make waves it was because of the chemistry between Hasslebeck, Behar, Walters and Star Jones. Remember her? Yes, the fame went to Jones' head a bit (is she still claiming she didn't have lap band surgery?), but no one would ever call her dumb. In fact, she was quite smart. She was a lawyer. She could debate the show's daily “Hot Topics” in a personable and educated manner. During those years, it was the very green Hasslebeck who had the hardest time keeping up with the other three hosts. Post-O'Donnell, Walters, Geddie and ABC made a strategic error thinking Goldberg could balance out the sometimes obvious naiveté and ignorance of both Shepherd and McCarthy. And, again, the departure of Behar and Hasslebeck (who eventually learned to stick up for herself) just made it worse.
So, ABC has an opportunity now. They country is as partisan as ever. We're not even through the midterm elections and people are already getting heated for the 2016 presidential race. Granted, the show's hardcore fan base doesn't wants “The View” to turn into a cable news talking heads show, but why not bring back an O'Donnell and some smarter women of different political persuasions. Make the show the melting pot of American opinion that got people talking. Walters' original vision was for a show featuring women from different backgrounds discussing current events in a manner that might spur debate across the country. She made the mistake of letting the show get away from what it was doing best. “The View” isn't dead, it's just broken. If ABC can bring back some of that fire, it might actually make viewers care about watching it again.
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