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'The View' Is in Big Trouble, and Whoopi's Angry: Here's How to Fix It

·Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
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The View crew came back from vacation on Monday with a chip on their collective shoulder: Whoopi Goldberg in particular was irritated about a Variety report that The View is in ratings trouble, planning more host changes, and format changes.

The Variety story referred to rumors that Rosie Perez and Nicolle Wallace weren’t working out as ratings draws and part of the View mix — a rumor that could only be stoked by Perez’s absence on the panel Monday morning. (Her spot was taken this morning by Full House star Candace Cameron Bure.) A source was quoted as saying Wallace doesn’t have a sufficient knowledge of pop culture — “she’s too wonky,” said the Variety source, referring to Wallace’s past as a Republican strategist.

“How you doin’, Wonky?” Goldberg greeted Wallace on Monday. A few minutes later, she turned to Wallace and began a question with, “Well, Wonky… ” Whoopi turned to the audience and said, “There’s an elephant in the room, and I just tapped it on the shoulder.” Her anger was scarcely concealed. 

There’s no doubt The View is in trouble — in the ratings, in its attempt to attract a younger audience, in its lack of stylistic focus. My impression of newly-minted panel member Raven-Symoné during her guest-hosting appearances was that she was a tad self-involved. On Monday, she only confirmed my instinct when, during a discussion about politicians feeling obligated to take selfies with constituents, Raven-Symoné gratuitously announced, “I don’t like signing my name because I get a cramp in my hand.” Wallace responded with rare sharp words, speaking for the rest of America when she snapped, “You’re that famous?”

The rest of Monday’s show suggested how much mojo The View has lost, when a key segment — a potentially juicy interview with Kelly Rutherford about what was hyped as her “long child-custody nightmare” — got bogged down in a tedious recitation of international law with legal analyst Dan Abrams. Rutherford managed to work in a few brief, poignant comments. 

The show is now being so poorly produced that another "Hot Topic" billed over the opening credits, about Donald Trump, never came up during the hour. The problem with The View now is that it no longer knows what kind of show it wants to be. Is it a tough-minded talk show tackling controversial issues? Is it a lightweight counterpart to, say, the final, Kathy-Lee-and-Hoda hour of The Today Show? In its golden age, The View was both of those things, but only because Whoopi, Rosie O’Donnell, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Joy Behar were such a feisty, combustible combination of personalities.

Nowadays, Wallace refers to herself (as she did on Monday) as “the resident Republican,” but she has no stomach for getting into verbal brawls with the liberal Goldberg or Perez. And Perez seems perpetually confused about when to interject an opinion or question — she’s never found the rhythm of the show. View co-founder Barbara Walters was often a prim drag, but that served a purpose on the show — she was the link to the older demo the show inevitably attracts as daytime programming. Do you think most View viewers knew what the hell Raven-Symoné was talking about when she said she watched this weekend’s women’s soccer tournament on her Instagram feed? Not a chance. 

The View has been overtaken by imitators and competitors such as CBS’s The Talk and the syndicated The Real. It may be that it can’t be saved. But there are certain things it could do immediately to become more noticeable in the culture:

1. Hire a woman from Fox News who’ll really drive Goldberg nuts with assertive opinions. (Are the contracts of Andrea Tantaros or Kimberly Guilfoyle up for renewal over there?) 

2. Stop with all the guest co-hosts who just smile pleasantly and read questions off cue cards because — well, they’re guests in that dowdy house, so they can’t really quarrel with Whoopi the way a regular can. 

3. Move away from the celebrity plugs and postmortems on the previous night’s reality TV shows, and focus on controversial social and political issues. There’s a presidential election in the offing, The View: Wake up and smell the issues. 

The View airs weekdays on ABC. Check your local listings.