Mourning Star

Will The View survive without its sassy host?

Star Jones Reynolds

Last night, Star Jones Reynolds took her loud mouth on Larry King Live in order to defend her honor. On Tuesday—having been told that The View, ABC’s morning chat show, would no longer require her co-hostessing services—Star had announced her imminent departure from the kaffeeklatsch live on-air, ahead of schedule and much to the vexation of her patron, Barbara Walters. On Wednesday, an affronted Barbara informed her View ers that “Star has known for months that ABC did not want to renew her contract and that she would not be asked back in the fall. … We hoped then that she would announce it on the program and leave with dignity. But Star made another choice.” Barbara had canned Star on the spot.

Meanwhile, Star—usually so painfully publicity-shy—was disputing Barbara’s account in many a print outlet, and the celebrity press—largely idle and antsy since the parturition of Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt—was going bananas. (The New York Post’s display text: ” ‘BARB’ WIRE: Livid ‘View’ host and Star get out the knives on air.”) When Thursday rolled around, the record still wanted to be set straight, Star still ached for more camera time, and Larry, in one of his occasional contributions of something akin to journalism, laid out a timeline of alleged events pertaining to Star’s sacking. According to his calendar, ABC, many moons ago, conducted some audience research and determined that “Star lost credibility.” The proper response to this news was to open one’s mouth, pop one’s dislocated jaw back into place, and, in honest bafflement, shriek at the set: “Star had credibility?!”

The View premiered in August of 1997. In addition to Walters and a not-yet-tackily-wedded Jones, Joy Behar, Meredith Vieira, and the inexplicable bubblehead Debbie Matenopoulos presided. According to Walter’s early voiceover, the program was the incarnation of her desire “to do a show with women of different generations, backgrounds, and views: a working mother; a professional in her 30s; a young woman just starting out; and then somebody who’s done almost everything and will say almost anything.” Because the show, with its scattershot attitudinizing on the daily news and riffing on skirmishes in the gender wars, was ripe for parody, Saturday Night Live quickly sank to the occasion, and Cheri Oteri, playing Walters, declaimed: “I’ve always wanted to do a show with women of different generations, backgrounds, and views. A regular working mom, a sassy black woman like I’ve seen on TV, and a total idiot.”

Jones, a former prosecutor and TV legal analyst, brought the sass. I’m not sure whether it was supposed to be Behar or Vieira who did the working-mom bit, but it was definitely Matenopoulos who provided the idiocy, a role later occupied by Lisa Ling and currently filled by one Elisabeth Hasselbeck. An NFL wife and former Survivor contestant, Hasselbeck is also the show’s token conservative; think of her as Ann Coulter, except prettier and with a soul. Yet on yesterday’s View, doing a segment on “the truth behind the 10 biggest beauty myths,” she was utterly nonpartisan in presenting a spectacular array of potions, unguents, and waxes.

The View seems to exist for the sole purpose of being made fun of. Did ABC’s market research give any indication of what percentage of the show’s viewers is flipping it on in a spirit of mockery? I am tempted to believe that a majority of its audience is comprised of blocked sketch-comedy writers, bloggers looking for easy targets, semi-employed hipsters, undergraduates who have just awakened and baked, and cynics working stationary bikes at the gym. But then I must consider my mother.

Squarely in the show’s demographic, Mom sees the fuss around Star’s ouster as more than empty hype, writing, “Will there be no minority representation (save for the outlook of Rosie) on The View next year? I just don’t get it. Did Star fall far enough out of grace with the show’s fan base that it was easier to eliminate her than to try to integrate her style with Rosie’s? Does this boil down to just a cat fight (and doesn’t that do more to keep women from being taken seriously than all the male chauvinists?) or are more serious issues at play?”

I don’t have those kinds of answers, Mom, but you’re not alone in despairing that the promise of a daily face-off between Rosie and Star has been snatched away. Last month, doing a monologue at ABC’s annual presentation to advertisers, the comic Jimmy Kimmel gaped at the matchup. “Star and Rosie?” he cried. “That’s like Alien vs. Predator!” A moment of silence, please, for the greatest talk-show showdown that is never to be.