The press was invited to witness Whoopi Goldberg’s debut on The View today, the show’s 11th season opener.
The mood was ebullient, with audience members—well, the half that’s actual civilians, as opposed to the press filling the floor seats—all riled up and dancing in the aisles. My guess is the fudge cookies and Apple & Eve juice they got on the way in had something to do with it—if I remember correctly, the snacks were actually ordered at the behest of departed host Rosie O’Donnell, who thought the sugar would foster enthusiasm. Apparently the set’s new: it’s very orange.
After a sweat-drenched rally-cry from the warm-up guy, the women came out. Whoopi looked thin and young (she says she’s recently lost 43 pounds…but gained back 10). The others looked fine, although Elisabeth Hasselbeck was wearing a BOAT-load of lip gloss and some kind of hot pink maternity go-go dress. And I don’t know which of the four the culprit was, but the studio suddenly became redolent of grandma perfume.
Lots of family talk: Joy’s daughter’s getting married, Elisabeth put her toddler on a pony and blah blah. Barbara’s got a book.
Um, apparently Elisabeth and her husband Tim have "YouTube dates," where they sit and watch online videos together for an hour. Hot.
Lots of seemingly amiable chit-chat amongst them during the first commercial break. A ruddy-cheeked "Viewmaster," EP Bill Geddie, came on stage for a consult while Joy cooled down with one of those mini-fans that were all the rage in 5th grade. More lip gloss for Elisabeth. Jeez.
I guess the strategy was to not make much of the fact that Whoopi’s now in the Meredith/Rosie moderator seat. They got through segment one of Hot Topics with barely a mention of it, although there were some man-on-the-street pieces running during the bumper spots with New Yorkers welcoming her.
HT2 centered on two View-perfect stories: Leona Helmsley and Michael Vick, with endless talk about whether dog-fighting’s culturally acceptable. The material seemed a little stale, but I guess they had been dark all summer, so they had some catching up to do.
At commercial, Whoopi got laughs from the crowd with a playful "oh, sh*t!" when a light came on brighter than she expected. "That’s one of the words they don’t want me to say," she said—pretty easy crowd to go with the easy vibe she’s giving off. The "questions" she gets in Q&A time are like, "I love Sister Act!!!!" "I’m so happy you’re on The View now!!!!!" Hmm….
They moved on to talk about that poor bimbo from Miss Teen USA who’s burning up YouTube with her disastrous take on why American children can’t find the U.S. on a map. This prompted more YouTube talk amongst the women. Elisabeth mentions her YouTube dates again. Wonder if this is a concerted effort to get more View footage on the site—now that Rosie’s gone, there’ll surely be a shortage of…viral moments.
Another Rosie remnant: the giveaway. Today’s audience got Invicta(?) watches: restrained applause.
Elisabeth chatted with the audience during the break about her hernia. Lovely. Doesn’t know whether the baby’s a boy or a girl. Has only been thinking of boy names.
Danny DeVito, who probably generated many of The View’s Season 10 YouTube hits, went over the now infamous limoncello incident from his last appearance on the show—he said he was tired, not drunk. He’s now started his own line of limoncello. Barbara wanted to know where the View’s cut was. "Being back here is your cut," he joked. He plugged FX’s new season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia and his restaurant in South Beach.
There was a taped piece on Whoopi’s road to The View. More Q&A. Someone wanted to know if they’d ever thought about putting a Hispanic woman on the panel. Barbara said they don’t pick people for their ethnicity and then cited Lisa Ling to say they’ve had a Chinese woman and pointed to Joy and said they have an Italian.
Final two minutes. Barbara asked Whoopi how her first day was. She gave an appropriation of the show’s "take a little time to enjoy The View" tagline. Pretty non-headline-generating…but I’m guessing that’s just the point.
In interviews after the show, ABC Daytime chief Brian Frons told me he thought the show was "back to being an ensemble show." Geddie called last year "an aberration" and said Goldberg seemed "comfortable" and was "a friend who does a great job of what she does." And Walters said, "I’ve known Whoopi for years, and in addition to her humor, there’s a kind of ease about her."
They all said they expect to name the fifth permanent co-host "very soon," before Elisabeth’s scheduled maternity leave begins on Nov. 11.
By Anne Becker