Saturday, November 1, 2008


When you think of powerful females in television today, you may immediately go to Martha Stewart, or our Holy St. Oprah of Chicago, or even the singlularly ageless intellect of Miss Diane Sawyer. Me? I'm in awe of all of the above, but when I think of power, my mind quickly shifts to Whoopi, Joy, Sherri, Elizabeth and Barbara. Like Cher or Madonna, they have reached the 'only-need-one-name' status. They are the women of "The View," the daily chatfest that has slowly (11 years), but surely become the talk of the town. Anytown, USA. The power these women wield has everything to do with stimulating the national conversation, and positively contributing to the public mix of ideas.

Whoopi didn't really need "The View," but it needed her, after one long, overheated year with Rosie O'Donnell as moderator. Joy Behar, a Brooklyn-born Italian often mistaken for a Jew (she dubs herself a Shiksa non-grata), is a former high school teacher turned standup comedienne. Let's just say Joy has come a long way since her salad days in Brooklyn. None other than the New York Times recently said she "looms as the new Edward R. Murrow." Sherri, poor thing, joined the show a year ago or so, and is working hard to keep up with her four co-hosts, but often makes unfortunate gaffes. She once questioned whether the world might truly be flat. Really. Elizabeth is an alumna of an early season of "Survivor," who has turned that one-season apearance on reality TV into a full career as a talking head. And Barbara....well, Barbara is Barbara, pioneer, trailblazer and success story.

So how did the members of this unlikely quintet become the most powerful women in television? They took daytime TV and stretched it, turned it inside out, nursed it and rehearsed it until finally it became truly substantive. "The View" is now enjoying its highest ratings ever, with the ladies squeezing every last drop of controversy out of their daily "Hot Topics" segment. Behar, an unabashed liberal Democrat, clashes daily and vociferously with Hasselbeck, a radical conservative right-winger who recently introduced her new hero, Sarah Palin at a campaign rally. Barbara, although she sort of tries to remain neutral is clearly a liberal Democrat, as is Whoopi. And poor Sherri, age 40, admits she has never voted in a Presidential election. Really.

Not exactly by design, Walters and her longtime producing partner, Bill Gedde, have assembled a panel that truly is a microcosm of the larger society of American women. Am I the only middle-aged white guy who TIVOs "The View" every single day and would never consider missing "Hot Topics?" I think not. I have a feeling men are tuning in in large numbers. We like to watch the ladies rant, and we actually learn a few things along the way. "The View" is intelligent media with an edge, but without the attitude. There is some yelling, but it's not the Bill O'Reilly brand. There is some partisan politicking, but it's not the FOX News model. There is a group of talking heads, but they know when to stop and listen, unlike the heads on some of those nightly cable talkathons.

Hey, not everybody wants to be a member of this fan club. Barry Manilow refused to appear on the show as long as he had to sit on the same panel with Hasselbeck. Cindy McCain was pissed off after she felt the ladies were a bit too rough on her husband, who Joy often refers to as McBush. Rosie O'Donnell quit before her contract was up because things were getting too contentious on-air with Elizabeth, and apparently behind the scenes with ViewMaster Gedde.

Whatever. I say Bravo! to the well-poofed and powdered fivesome. Daytime TV finally has some intellectual largesse, with a dose of hot humor and just a pinch of edgy disobedience. Like Babs instructs us at the end of the show....Take a little time to enjoy The View.

1 comment:

Joan Eisenstodt said...

Nicely said. Love that these interesting women are there as diverse role models.. well, except Sherrie - I mean, really, she's never voted? OY!
Good stuff - glad you are blogging it.