For nearly 20 years, personnel news regarding ABC’s talk show The View has been one of a very limited number of pop-culture constants. The show, created by Barbara Walters as a way for a diverse group of women to discuss the news of the day, has long been subject to a certain amount of churn. But it’s been especially pronounced lately. Last year, Rosie O’Donnell, Rosie Perez, and Nicolle Wallace were brought in to revitalize the series; after O’Donnell’s departure in February due to personal issues and Perez and Wallace’s this month due to a poor fit, only moderator Whoopi Goldberg remains from the 2014 lineup. Actress Raven-Symoné and comedian Michelle Collins have been cast for next season, but the show’s best days are behind it. ABC would be best served by moving on from the franchise.
The periodic reshufflings of the deck for The View have long been a part of the show’s DNA, but in the past, they served to make the show seem fresh and contemporary. The additions of Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Rosie O’Donnell (in her first stint on the show, in 2006 and 2007), for instance, brought the show closer to the heart of American politics. The end of George W. Bush’s presidency and the run-up to the 2008 election marked the show’s peak of relevance, focused as it was on sharp, relatively informed debates on substantive issues. In the years since, though, and particularly since Barbara Walters’s retirement in 2014, the show has listed in one direction or another. Various cast members were let go with no meaningful plan to replace them; new commentators were hired to bring sassy pop-culture commentary (Jenny McCarthy), before they were let go in favor of more substantive thinkers (O’Donnell, in her brief second stint, and Wallace, who’s reportedly been let go in part due to a lack of knowledge of celebrities). As its ratings sag in favor of edgier competition like The Wendy Williams Show and The Real, The View has absolutely no idea what kind of show it actually wants to be.
And this doesn’t show any signs of abating. The show’s only long-serving panelist, Whoopi Goldberg, has long been dismissive of the show, barely present in group discussions most of the time. Raven-Symoné, for her part, stokes conversation online — not through Hasselbeck-ish opinions backed up by facts, but by a trollish naif act, whereby she takes an indefensibly silly position just to get people talking. This can hardly be what Walters intended; nor can the fact that the chat show she started in order to give various sorts of women a voice on daytime TV is now only discussed in the context of its talent’s shortcomings and their feuds.
A show about a panel of men would never be covered as a decades-long catfight, it’s true, but the producers behind The View have done their (many, many) cast members through the years an ongoing disservice by putting them in the position of hosting a show whose reason for existing keeps changing. The View has tried to be a political debate series, a celebrity gossip rundown, and now a platform for Raven-Symoné to make Twitter mad. Given that the “Hot Topics” format has been put into place by shows far more certain of what they are and far less plagued by indecision and drama, maybe it’s time for ABC to take some time to innovate a new sort of broadcast, rather than hiring new talent in hopes that something, anything, will end up working.