On Monday, a thinner, seemingly more humble and far less confrontational Star Jones debuted her self-titled live talk show on Court TV. It was a noble effort from the much-maligned former “View” co-host who is attempting to bounce back from all of the adversity that has plagued her over the past couple of years.
But nobility doesn’t always translate into high ratings, nor does it necessarily make someone a good host.
Jones is no Oprah and she knows that. And even though it’s unfair to assess “Star Jones” after the first 60 minutes, I’m not quite sure daytime is the court in which this former attorney should be trying her case. Some people are born to lead. Some are natural followers. And others, like Jones, need to check the hybrid box. She’s one of those players who needs teammates to make her better.
Jones opened her show with a segment called the “Wrap Sheet” in which she played ball with in-studio guests former CBS “Morning Show” anchor Renee Syler and Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera. “Access Hollywood’s” Shaun Robinson joined them via satellite from Los Angeles.
“Wrap Sheet” is essentially “The View’s” hot topics segment on steroids. Translation: it went on a little too long. Monday’s topics included: the engagement of Jenna Bush (weak); Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani’s 17-year-old daughter Caroline backing her dad’s democratic opponent Barack Obama (and, we would care because?); Michael Vick (timely, but bland); and the train wreck that is Britney Spears (late freight news).
Prior to the segment Jones said her goal was to “get us all talking, but for the right reasons.” Those reasons, however, weren’t very apparent.
While the discussions did give birth to some riveting responses from Robinson, it didn’t look as though producers put much thought into booking guests that would make this segment pop. Instead it looked like Jones had just rung up a bunch of her friends and asked them to bop by and help launch her new show. Syler was cunning enough to find ways to hawk her new book, but added little to the mix. And it was obvious that Rivera, a man whose ego is far too big to be just a guest, was totally uninterested in the subject matter.
Plus Jones’ homespun “mama said” wisdom — especially when debating the controversial CBS fall series “Kid Nation” — made her seem a little less credible.
Washington interview was overhyped
In the second half hour Jones sat down with another mucho-maligned celebrity — actor Isaiah Washington. During the teases, Jones promised that Washington, who was fired from his gig as Dr. Preston Burke on “Grey’s Anatomy” in May after using a homophobic slur to describe a castmate, would reveal things to her that he’s never told any other interviewer. But while she did get him to open up about his father’s murder, Jones lacks the skills inherent in great interviewers and pretty much hurled a bunch of softballs at at an actor who never quite leaves the stage.
I’m sure that Jones must identify with Washington — who will next appear in a multi-episode arc on NBC’s “Bionic Woman” — on many levels. They both hail from southern states, attended college in D.C., were fired by ABC, are in their mid-40s and both are seeking redemption from a public that once embraced them.
But even with all of those tight yet tepid connections, I fail to understand why her producers decided to air Washington’s interview over two days. Really intriguing and compelling personalities don’t often get that kind of love. So, unless Washington is going to announce that he’s been pegged to play rapper Biggie Smalls in the upcoming Reggie Bythewood biopic, he should have been wrapped in one segment.
Getting him a month ago would have been quite the coup. But he’s moved on, and so have we. And until she gets better at the one-on-one thing, Jones should sit back and do what she does best — assess a situation and then comment.
The worst part of the show, however, was Jones’ “Open Letter” segment. Not only did this seem a little too narcissistic for someone claiming that humility is now her maiden name, but it was bland and pointless.
We get that she’s sorry for the diva act and for initially not being exactly honest about how she lost a reported 160 pounds. We get that you get it and it’s time for you to move on, too. Reminding us of the person she purportedly used to be only reinforces the reasons why we might not want to tune in.
Americans tend to be a forgiving, but an eternally skeptical breed.
There’s no doubt that Mrs. Al Reynolds — despite her previous missteps — is a smart cookie, and perhaps after 60 shows “Star Jones” will find its footing. Let’s just hope that Jones is savvy enough to bridge the gap that sometimes exists between book smarts and common sense, and create a show that everyone from her grandma to rapper David Banner would want to watch.
And let’s pray that she’ll follow her own advice if the show ever emerges from ICU.
“Everyone makes mistakes,” she said toward the end of Monday’s show. “But if you’re lucky and blessed enough to get a second chance, embrace it and be thankful for it. Then turn the page.”
Keep turning girl. You’re still a few pages away from getting it right.
Miki Turner is an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org