"The View's" 19th season began Tuesday and....OK, enough with the small talk already: Joy Behar is back.
Gone two years now following a baby-out-with-the-bathwater overhaul that left this show floundering and flopping, today's return felt like old times...also loud times, and gaseous times, and opinionated times. Plus amusing times, infuriating times, silly times. But whether you are a fan of Behar or not, her return Tuesday was at least a demonstration of why "The View" without her wasn't really "The View" at all...
With a personality so outsized, opinions so brash, and a voice so New Yawk, she tended to define what this show was so often about. And because she was there from the very beginning, 19 years ago, losing that style obviously meant losing something elemental to the enterprise as well. Sure, "The View" may be a boisterous exchange of political ideas or social observations that cater to a strictly female viewership -- but in actual point of fact, it's more often a sonic gale-force wind that tends to be informative only by accident, but undeniably entertaining when all the elements are working in tandem.
Chief among those elements over the years was Behar. With her back at the center of the table, she's also a reminder -- still a vivid one -- of what "The View" was like when it was actually relevant.
This morning, she told the audience that she spent her summer in the Hamptons; had regrets getting up this morning while her husband was still sleeping; wondered along with Whoopi why the new season's ceremonial coffee cup doesn't have any faces of the new cast members: "In case they have to get rid of any of us..."
She battered heads, ever so gently with new cast members whose political opinions were at variance with her own still safely liberal ones; largely sided with Whoopi Goldberg on just about everything; got cozy with Jerry O'Connell; slipped a flirtatious hand behind the head of first guest Jason Sudeikis; and got serious with the other first guest, Elizabeth Warren. She behaved just like someone who had never even left.
"The View" also took the opportunity to introduce the rest of the cast -- a big one, all of whom have already appeared -- including "GMA" anchor Paula Faris filling the obligatory role of "Christian" and "conservative," also Raven-Symone, as Youthful Cultural Seer, who verged on incoherence at moments; ("Girl," a voice warned her, when she started to get lost in the weeds of some thought...)
Candace Cameron Bure and Michelle Collins also joined the panel fulltime..
Will this new combination work?
Beats me! ABC News, which now runs the show, still doesn't seem to quite know what "The View" is or should be, and so reached back to the past to get a part of what it once was. Behar, as much as anyone, understands that past because she was there. Maybe that's the right first step towards a return to relevance.