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 thepresidential 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. (To watch a video Q&A with Frons from the TCA July Press Tour, click here.)
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.
Watch the clip below:
(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."
By Marisa Guthrie