A View of The View
By Barry Dougherty
When The View premiered on ABC in August of 1997 I was ecstatic. Here was a unique opportunity to write about three Friars–Barbara Walters, Joy Behar and Angela LeGreca–all working on the same daytime talk show. It was an event made for an Epistle article.
The press release announcing the show states that it is a “multi-generational talk and informational entertainment program.” Basically what that means is four women sit around a table, or on a couch, chatting about everything and anything. They have diverse talents, distinct differences, and varying views (oh, now I get it!) which makes for a melting pot of a program–and it works. Barbara, who also produces the program, appears on the show two or three times a week, with Joy filling in the other days. Although, from what I see a year later, Barbara likes being there when Joy is too, so that table and couch can get sorta cramped–but cozy. Joining the Friars are the other members that make up The View troop–Star Jones, Debbie Matenopoulos and Meredith Vieira (who pulls double duty as the show’s moderator). Angela works off camera, warming up the audience and teaching them how to “applaud” when the sign lights up. (Okay, so this adds up to listing six women on a show that is quoted as being “a team of four”–just think of it as a different view of math.)
I am not exactly sure what those “multi-generations” are specifically, although one seems very young, another youngish, another younger than the oldest and the oldest looks ever so young, so go figure. And Joy, well, she looks younger and younger with each passing Friars Roast. (Oh, and just to be consistent with the math here, off camera Angela can be as young as she damn well wants to be.)
Recently I was able to experience my personal view of The View when I stopped by the set to check out the show first-hand. I was told that Tony Bennett was to be a guest on the show–how perfect! Another Friar! An added treat was that Barbara most likely would stop by as well, what with Tony being there and all. The live show goes on at 11:00 am, so I was there at 10:30 am ready to experience Barbara, Joy, Angela, Tony and company. When I arrived at ABC’s west-side studios, I was instantly met with a moral decision–ABC’s technicians were engaged in a walkout against the Disney-owned station and were picketing outside. Well, four of them were–I guess some of them lost their gusto after a week. I bit the bullet and crossed the picket line. I waited in the lobby among the anxious audience wannabe’s awaiting their fate–will they get in to watch the show, or be turned away and forced to head back to the bus to Schenectady? By 10:50 am it seemed pretty obvious that the publicist who was supposed to meet me wasn’t coming–turns out she too was on strike. They don’t have cellular phones on picket lines? Luckily, Angela took pity on me and they allowed me into the studio.
For Angela’s part, she chats with the audience, gets them laughing and puts them in the mood to be entertained. They love her! She has them doing imitations of “New Yawkers” by the end of the show and taking pictures of her for the folks back home.
This particular day they had on their plate a discussion of what is politically correct, citing disturbing comments made on a recent Ally McBeal episode. The remarks, made by one of the characters, a nun, had the Catholic League up in arms. Joy, who agreed the comments were uncalled for, admitted the church has flaws, “they just forgave the Inquisition, finally!” Star Jones then revealed that “witches” were mad at her after she told a group of them that she was “uncomfortable” when they visited the set on a prior episode. I felt her pain–I’d just experienced a flock of them at the Halloween party in the Village the week before. Joy noted there needs to be a “separation of church and television.” They are funny. They are engaging. And they do have “multi-generational” points of view.
The ladies (is that PC these days?) then moved on to talk about Harrison Ford’s being named People magazine’s “1998 Sexiest Man Alive.” Oh, what those ladies from Schenectady were missing. Speaking of missing, did I mention that Barbara was nowhere to be found during this morning coffee portion of the program? After a break, Meredith introduced the celebrity guest of the day–Tony, I assumed, would be making his entrance. My assumption was way off, the guest was Miss Piggy. Seems the muppet is hawking a perfume, “Moi!” I’m thinking of creating one myself, called “Oy!” Miss Piggy then joined the cast in a discussion of the “question of the day”–What’s the most inappropriate thing you ever wished for? Meredith said to marry her brother–well, she was five at the time. Debbie hoped school would blow up or that she’d have an accident if she was past her curfew (I assume these are wishes from her earlier years, but I did previously note that one of them “seems very young”). Joy used to wish that the nuclear bomb that she learned how to “duck and cover” for would hit so she wouldn’t have to return her overdo library books. Star wishes Hillary would leave Bill so she could have him. Miss Piggy wanted them all to die so she could have “this show.” I was still wishing Barbara and Tony would show up (however, that was not my “inappropriate” wish!).
Larry Rosenthal, DDS, popped by to show Star and Debbie how to keep their pearly white teeth gleaming. He suggests one eat more apples; stay away from grape and cranberry juice; don’t use a hard tooth brush, or better yet, use an electric toothbrush; or just get laminates. I admit, Dr. Rosenthal is more concerned about my teeth than I am about giving up my morning grape juice. I was also preoccupied during his visit as I had to keep jockeying for a better position to see the set from my precarious position behind camera 2 and its coiled cables.
Also on the show was comedian Margaret Cho who stopped by “Joy’s Corner.” In the past, Friars Kevin Meaney and Jeff Ross, among others, have chatted with Joy in her corner, and it is one of the funnier moments in the show. Joy also held a soap opera contest. Admitting she never watches them nor sees what the fuss is all about, she had viewers submit samples of soaps to prove to her, what gives? The winners of the contest were announced by soap hunk Cameron Mathison of All My Children, who called them to the couch to give them flowers and a peck on the cheek. I’m sort of with Joy on this one though.
The show moved fast, and the cast could not have been more charming, witty and fun. I couldn’t help notice, however, throughout the live production that the camera operators were ever so serious and extremely conscientious with every little zoom they made. Realizing that the professionals were outside picketing with the show’s publicist, I asked some of the operators what they really did. “It’s a little disconcerting with all these conversations going on at once through your headset!” said the woman from Personnel manning camera 3. You could tell she was an administrative type from the navy pantsuit–when is the last time you saw a camera operator in Christian Dior? “I’m not nervous at all,” stammered the guy from Program Operations, as he gently eased his 200 lb. camera across the floor–smiling proudly at hitting his mark. I too smiled at his not hitting my foot. Now if only the woman from Financial Services can figure out how to type up invoices and pan over to the couch set at the same time.
I stopped by the dressing rooms afterward to tell the cast how much fun they were but they were busy trying on pajamas for an upcoming episode. Star had on a red Victorian satin thingy and Joy was in a pink number she referred to as, “Lucy pajamas.” When I asked her what was up with the pj’s she cautioned, “It’s a long story!”
In spite of a day off for Barbara and a no-show for Tony (rumor had it behind the scenes that he didn’t want to cross the picket line) I had a fun time with the girls. My only dilemma was sneaking past the picket line so Tony wouldn’t catch me on the way out.