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‘The View’ at 20: Debate and Dissension That’s Made an Impact
August 11, 2017  | By David Hinckley  | 3 comments
 

The View turns 20 on Friday and even if that doesn’t make it old enough to legally drink in most places, let’s raise a toast.  

ABC will mark the milestone by using The View’s regular timeslot, 11 a.m. ET, to replay its first-ever show from Aug. 11, 1997.

The lineup that day included the show’s creator, Barbara Walters, along with Meredith Vieira, Joy Behar, Star Jones and Debbie Matenopoulos (top and left).

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then, as Sam said in Casablanca. There have been personnel changes, controversies and, yeah, okay, a few catfights.

You don’t do a daily talk show for 20 years and not get some of that.

But that’s not what has really mattered about The View. Its impact and legacy-to-date have, happily, added up to more than the sum of its tabloid headlines.

Walters launched the show – without trying to put words in her mouth here – as a forum where women could talk seriously about the issues of the day.

Not just decorating issues or kitchen issues. All the issues, right up to the ones that used to get discussed only when the men had kicked all the womenfolk out of the room.

That didn’t mean Walters saw it as a soapbox to pontificate in skirts instead of neckties. In a brilliant stroke that sounds simple and obvious, she saw The View as a place where women could riff on a fashion trend without forfeiting their right to conduct a serious discussion on border security, as well.

And then there’s the fact that The View is also a television show. It has to entertain an audience that’s watching television late in the morning.

So it has regularly brought in celebrity guests from popular culture. It lets its panelists get personal and sometimes goofy.  

It has also sought to maintain a balance in areas like ethnicity and ideology. While most of the panelists over the years have tilted a bit to the left, there has always been a conservative who is not afraid to speak up.

If the conservative women have been outnumbered, none have said they felt like second-class citizens. Elisabeth Hasselbeck (left, with Walters), who spent nearly a decade on The View, talked when she left about how much she learned from the professional tone set by Walters.

Yes, The View has had less inspiring moments. Google the Rosie O’Donnell headlines for an example. There have been backstage dramas, some not pretty. A few years ago Walters herself was nudged into the margins.

The daytime TV landscape has also changed over the last 20 years, as audience patterns have changed and networks have tried to find a critical mass, any critical mass, for daytime viewership.  

But for all that, The View has done an impressive job of implementing its original mission.

More women have become serious commentators on television today, even if you discount Fox’s news bunny strategy, and The View itself long ago became a respected destination for serious guests.

Hundreds of significant public figures up to and including presidents and first ladies have stopped by, and while part of that was doubtless to expand their demographic reach, they have talked about matters of substance. They also at times have revealed a bit more of their private side, which is not a bad thing.

Perfect? Nah. What is? But The View has earned its spot on the list of television shows that have mattered.

 
 
 
 
 
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3 Comments
 
 
Zimmerman
The show still matters, mostly because of Whoopie, she takes strong positions on 'turning-point' issues, fearless when it comes to who her opposition is or how powerful they (mostly men) are. As Tom Petty exalted, 'She won't back down."
Oct 12, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mike
I've seen some of each era of The View since it began. It was not at all serious in the beginning, just a shallow chat show, not political. Then Rosie O'Donnell joined the cast and for the first and only time the show became interesting and relevant, but then the producers attempted to turn it into just another left/right boxing match. Rosie left and took all the oxygen with her. It's been a ghost of the Rosie version of The View ever since. It has since devolved into what it is today, once again a silly, irrelevant chat show. Not that there's anything wrong with that, as long as that isn't what's passing for insightful and important analysis. It's nowhere near it.
Aug 11, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
Mark Isenberg
Sorry to disagree but it hass dumbed down since Whoopi became the moderator and there is no geting past that so while she is a very good actress and comedian,she is not a wise sage and the Show continues to decline despite many cast changes.
Aug 11, 2017   |  Reply
 
 
 
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