With Marisa Guthrie
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It looks like The View is getting its groove back.
After a lively couple of seasons marked by the abrupt departure of Star Jones and the short but tumultuous tenure of Rosie O'Donnell—which drew throngs of bloodlusty viewers waiting to see if O'Donnell might actually dive across the table and strangle Elisabeth Hasselbeck—things had gotten downright placid on the ABC daytime talk show.
But the presidential election has energized the opinionated women of The View, and the campaigns' historic racial and gender dimensions have landed right in the show's sweet spot.
The Sept. 2 premiere of the show's 12th season was up slightly over last season's opener in key demos, including women 18-49, and was the show's second-most-watched debut since 2000.
"By having a panel of diverse opinions, all the questions get asked—from the left, from the right—and that's really the value of the show," says Brian Frons, head of daytime at Disney-ABC Television Group, in an interview last week with B&C.
Barack Obama's candidacy has made for charged debates about race, like the emotional exchange about the N-word with moderator Whoopi Goldberg that left Hasselbeck in tears.
The arrival of Gov. Sarah Palin, the first woman to be nominated to a Republican ticket, inspired panelist Sherri Shepherd to declare the VP candidate ready for the presidency by virtue of being a mother of five.
And while the drama has settled considerably since O'Donnell took her flamethrower and went home, the panelists' comments can still make headlines—as happened last week when video surfaced online showing the right-leaning Hasselbeck at an event for Cindy McCain, where she praised McCain's recent visit to The View but dissed Michelle Obama for ruling certain topics off-limits when she was on the show. (Asked about the propriety of a host publicly deriding a guest's rules of engagement, a View spokesman said, "We never comment on what may or may not have been said backstage at our show.")
Frons declined to discuss Hasselbeck's remark, but he acknowledges the show's potential for boiling over: "I think the politeness has fallen away over the last few years so that the panel has become more quotable.
"It was this sleepy little show for the first nine years," he adds. "We've gone from backwater daytime talk to really being front and center in the ratings and in the minds of the daytime audience."
Every week, the offices of B&C are deluged with swag—those little knickknacks and tchachkes promoting new series and season premieres.
While most pass through only briefly on their journey to the landfill, some items insinuate themselves into the work lives of the staffers. Coffee mugs collect coins, bobble-head dolls stand sentinel on desks, and sugar cookies decorated to look like BlackBerrys, lipstick and other pocketbook items (thank you, Starter Wife!) wreak havoc on diets.
Once, when Starz sent yellow-tinted shooting glasses, a canvas fishing hat and a cigarette filter loaded with a Dunhill to promote its Hunter S. Thompson documentary, our executive editor P.J. Bednarski took to wearing the get-up while drinking Chivas Regal and fondling a 12-gauge.
In recent weeks, a bumper crop of exceptional swag has had a profound effect on the staff. The toy light sabers Cartoon Network sent out for its animated Clone Wars series have released Rob Edelstein and Mike Malone's inner—or maybe not so inner—Star Wars geeks. The always stylish Marisa Guthrie quickly claimed the three-finger ring (or is it a set of brass knuckles?) from MGM's VOD channel Impact. And the Prison Break Swiss Army knife from Fox is not only "so Fox," it came just in time to uncork the bottle of Bordeaux from USA Network to celebrate the 100th episode of Monk.
See for yourself. Watch the B&C Swag Report video, only at www.bcbeat.com.