Ken Tucker: The New 'View' Is More Affable Than Controversial

The new cast of "The View"

"It might be a good idea for this show to shake off its dolor, its veneer of politesse, and get back to offering strong points of view," writes the veteran critic of the premiere

Anyone expecting the gloves to come off during the premiere of the new season of The View Monday morning had to settle for Rosie O’Donnell’s shoes coming off as she sat barefoot and cross-legged on the talk show she abandoned seven years ago.

With the departure of Barbara Walters, a freshly pastel-colored set, a new executive producer (ex-Rachel Maddow Bill Wolff), and two new co-hosts — Rosie Perez and former Republican campaign strategist Nicolle Wallace — a View-er might have expected all participants to be eager to disagree, to light up social media with fresh feuding. But except for Whoopi Goldberg calling the current Ray Rice controversy “a lotta B.S. now” and nearly coming down on the side of Adrian Peterson in saying parents should be allowed to “bop their children,” there was an assiduous avoidance of controversy, an eerie affability, to the new View.

As could have been predicted, O’Donnell dominated. When Robin Williams’ death was mentioned, O'Donnell made sure to tell us she had “been at that place” — i.e., contemplating suicide. O’Donnell stepped on Goldberg’s introduction of Wallace as a prominent Republican by inserting a shout of “I really like her, I swear to God!” In the midst of chat about footballer Rice and Chris Brown, O’Donnell gratuitously announced that she’s never seen a Woody Allen movie since the filmmaker’s sexual-abuse allegations surfaced. Huh? And in the final segment, after Kristin Chenoweth sang a song in memory of Joan Rivers, it was O’Donnell who rushed forward with tears streaming down her face so the cameras could zoom in on her grief. The other Rosie and Wallace really have their work cut out for them, getting heard or seen here.

Wallace is a very different kind of Republican View host from Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Serene where Hasselback was bubbly, silent during the domestic-abuse “Hot Topic” where Hasselbeck would have jumped into the fray, Wallace may have been merely gauging the temperature of the studio audience, but she didn’t provide the necessary sparks required as contrast to the strident liberalism of O’Donnell or the grumpy contrarianism of Goldberg.

Speaking of the studio audience, the new seat configuration seemed to place the civilians closer to the stars, which had the potentially deadly effect of muting their reactions. In the past, the audience was a whooping, cheering, sometimes gasping passel of spectators. Such loud reactions might not be forthcoming now from audience members who may not want to appear rude now that they're sitting at a distance where a few of them could have reached out and touched O’Donnell’s exposed toes.

Perez was placed in the awkward position of quickly becoming just “the other Rosie.” She echoed many of O’Donnell’s sentiments instead of making her own points, and suffered with us all through a dire new segment called “Ro or Ro?,” in which an audience member is read a quote and must identify whether it was said by Perez or O’Donnell. Perez’s best moment came when she asked Wallace of Sarah Palin, “When did you wanna just pop her?”

To be sure, that comment as well as nearly everything the other Rosie said, when combined with Wallace’s moderate-Republican positions, are going to give Fox News and other conservative outlets the opportunity for many faux-appalled conniption fits. But for anyone else watching, the controversy factor was pretty much nil. In a telling moment, Goldberg said “The View is the show everyone has copied, but we’re the original,” a moment of tacit acknowledgment of the increased ratings of CBS’ The Talk, a gesture Barbara Walters would never have permitted. (Walters’ spirit haunted the show on Monday in a pre-taped, pre-credits bit in which she was ensconced on a throne as each host literally kissed Mama Baba’s ring.)

The View seems to have adopted Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” as its new theme music. After Monday’s premiere, it might be a good idea for this show to shake off its dolor, its veneer of politesse, and get back to offering strong points of view.