Whoopi Goldberg’s arrival as a permanent co-host on “The View” Tuesday was sort of akin to the Second Coming — literally and figuratively.
The 51-year-old Oscar-winning actress and comedian, who is replacing Rosie O’Donnell, is the second woman to sit in the moderator’s chair since Meredith Vieira bolted for TODAY last year. And, she is a savior of sorts, trying to breathe new life into a show that has had its share of drama and controversy over the past two years.
Until her arrival it was like the show, which celebrated the start of its 11th season on Tuesday, had been stuck in a perpetual spin cycle after attempting to wash away the hard-to-remove stains imbedded on its dirty laundry after the sudden and controversial departures of Star Jones in ’06 and O’Donnell last May.
So, how did Goldberg do? Well, she was certainly more Meredith than Rosie, who willingly gave up her seat after a contentious on-air battle over the war in Iraq with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck. She was that steady voice of calm and reason, but it’s really too soon to see how Goldberg will ultimately fit in with a trio of women who not only don’t look like her, but don’t share her same keen eye for fashion either.
And that’s not a dig; I simply liked what I saw and heard on Tuesday morning in between all the promos and teases trumpeting her arrival. She got her point across without ramming it down anyone’s throat and she provided a different perspective — particularly when the show went to the dogs during the Hot Topics segment.
Although the opening discussion about the late Leona Helmsley and the $12 million she left to her pet Maltese was just begging for a few good one-liners from either Goldberg or Joy Behar, they failed to deliver and the whole conversation just fell flat. If “The View” aired on HBO, Goldberg probably would have used the B-word and elaborated on the state of Helmsley’s mental health before she died.
Not afraid to voice her opinionGoldberg did, however, have much more to say about the controversy swirling around Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, who recently pled guilty to charges related to illegal dog fighting in his native Virginia. The Vick issue has quickly become one of the most contentious and racially divisive arguments on the planet. While Goldberg didn’t pick sides, she did attempt to explain the reasons why Vick could be on his way to jail.
She thinks Vick may have simply been unaware that something that appears to be the cultural norm where he’s from is morally reprehensible in other areas of the country.
“Instead of just saying he’s a beast or a monster, this is a kid who comes from a culture where (this) is not questioned,” Goldberg said.
Her “defense” of Vick was debated in some of the ensuing reviews of Goldberg’s first show, but she wasn’t actually defending what he did. She was simply providing another perspective that hasn’t been fully explored on other chat shows. And that’s one of the reasons why Goldberg is good for the show. With that explanation she opened up the door for Hasselbeck, in full third trimester glow, to mention that in some cultures wife beating is acceptable, but that it wasn’t OK.
And it gave Barbara Walters an opportunity to chime in about how much of the country found it hard to relate to Jon Benet Ramsey’s involvement in kiddie beauty pageants.
That was a little out there, but relevant.
From full-on Rosie to nuanced Whoopi
Had O’Donnell been leading this discussion, it may have gone in a completely different direction. The difference between O’Donnell and Goldberg is that O’Donnell generally only saw things in black and white. Goldberg understands that every discussion contains various shades of gray. That’s why she has the ability to enlighten and be enlightened.
And once Goldberg finds her footing in an environment as verbally restrictive as network television, she’ll be even better. Unfortunately, we probably won’t really get the chance to see her rail, but it’s good to know she’ll be putting herself out on that rail when she feels the need to do so.
That’s been the one thing that’s been missing since Jones left — someone willing to take the hits for the common good. Goldberg will most certainly take a few for her comments about Vick because there will be folks — particularly those who didn’t see her interview with “Good Morning America’s” Diane Sawyer on Tuesday morning — who won’t get it.
But those who did hear what she said during that segment will ultimately come to understand why she’s sitting in that first chair. When asked what she was going to bring to the table Goldberg said: “All I want to do is continue to plant things and ideas and create and really say what I think in the world as long as I can,” she said.
Whoopee. That sounds like a really cool plan. “The View” is desperately in need of a new harvest. Let’s hope it rains often during the reign of Whoopi.
Miki Turner is an entertainment columnist for MSNBC.com. She welcomes your comments at