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Catfights? Not yet on new `View'

On Rosie O'Donnell's first day as moderator, there were no fireworks but stay tuned.

September 06, 2006|Robin Abcarian | Times Staff Writer

How much tension would there be? Would oversized lesbian avatar Rosie O'Donnell rip into teensy conservative Elisabeth Hasselbeck? Would aging news diva Barbara Walters be able to keep the peace? And would wise-cracking yenta Joy Behar be able to keep up with fellow comedian O'Donnell?

We'll just have to wait and see. Unfortunately, there were no real fireworks Tuesday on ABC's Meredith Vieira-less and Star Jones Reynolds-less "View," the premiere of its 10th season.

There were, however, a few delicious foreshadowings of catfights to come.

After being led by the elbow onstage by Walters, the show's creator and co-executive producer, O'Donnell announced, "I am wearing high heels today." Alluding to her long silky hair, she added, "I had that crazy, crazy haircut that scared America and I am taking my medicine so everything is going to be all right."

"Have you told your friend Tom Cruise?" Behar asked pointedly. She was alluding both to Cruise's angry rants against psychotropic meds and to O'Donnell's oft-professed love of Cruise during a more closeted time in her television life.

O'Donnell, who has replaced Vieira as the show's moderator, responded by hinting that the huge floral arrangement at her feet was a gift from Cruise. The women all agreed that he is a truly nice guy. (The Cruise rehabilitation continues!). Then they moved on to stories about toilet-training toddlers, including tales of bathing naked with children. This bit culminated in an unappetizing moment when O'Donnell seemed aghast that Hasselbeck wore a bathing suit into the tub with her 17-month-old.

"Oh, no," said Hasselbeck, "she's seen me nude. She's like 'Boobies, boobies!' I was just trying to make it fun like a beach party."

"You can explain a lot there in the tub," said O'Donnell, "because Vivi always looks at me and says, 'When am I getting my fur?' "

Tuesday's show marked the unveiling of a new, and very unattractive set on "The View." Instead of overstuffed couches and chairs -- "we don't want it to look like your grandmother's living room," said O'Donnell -- the hosts started out sitting stiffly at a semicircular table. Later, they moved on to an uncomfortable looking couch, which looks like your dentist's waiting room.

More important, the show also marked O'Donnell's return to daytime television after a four-year hiatus that was tumultuous for her, personally and professionally.

She came fully out of the closet and helped organize a Caribbean cruise for gay families that was shot for an HBO documentary. She and her partner, the parents of four children, married publicly in San Francisco, then were informed that the marriage was invalid. She was sued by Gruner & Jahr, the media conglomerate that backed her short-lived magazine, Rosie. She lost millions of dollars backing a Broadway musical that flopped.

But worst of all -- at least on planet "View,"' where wars and presidencies may come and go but a bad haircut lives on -- O'Donnell cut her hair off.

"The bane of my existence," O'Donnell called the coif during a retrospective segment about her last four years. Each period was introduced with cutesy titles, such as "Why did she leave?" and "Stop the Presses!" and "I Do?"

"I never thought it was that bad and then recently someone showed me some photos, and OK, I agree," she said. "It was an error of epic proportions. The haircut was a mistake ... I will never do it again."

A fairly insipid Jessica Simpson was the day's guest. She didn't have a lot to say, but to her credit, she appeared to be singing live when she performed a song from her new CD.

O'Donnell tried to inject a little life into the interview by asking about rumors that Simpson, recently divorced from Nick Lachey, is dating musician John Mayer.

"I am actually not dating John Mayer," said Simpson.

"Really?" exclaimed O'Donnell. "You mean People magazine was wrong?"

This devolved into a discussion about paparazzi, which culminated in Walters making a somewhat surprising wish for Simpson and her photographer stalkers: "I hope the day never comes when they are not there and you say, 'Why don't they care about me?' " Yes, Simpson agreed. Paparazzi might be annoying, but the photos sure do help now that she is launching a footwear line and other products. "I just have to take full advantage of it," she said.

In some sense, this is the beauty of five celebrity chicks yakking unscripted. Sometimes the truth will come out: We may bitch and moan about them, but paparazzi are good for us!

On the other hand, if this quartet -- or trio when Walters is otherwise occupied -- does not learn to cut out the cross talk, it's going to be a long slog for viewers. They stepped on each other so often, it was like a watching a remedial dance class.

During the show's Hot Topics segment, O'Donnell was trying to talk about how she explained the untimely death of Steve Irwin to her children, and mimicked her 6-year-old son's response: "the cwock-o-dile huntah?"

Behar interrupted: "What? Does he talk Japanese?"

O'Donnell said to the audience: "And you thought I was going to have problems with Elisabeth."

Behar: "Oh, you will."

We can only hope.

*

'The View'

Where: ABC

When: 10 a.m.

Rating: TV-14 (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14)

*

robin.abcarian@latimes.com

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