Girls ruled in TV-land Tuesday. First, on daytime, Rosie O’Donnell bounded onto The View trying to rev up some interest in this daily gabfest that has recently fallen on hard times. Rosie was taking Meredith Vieira’s place, because Meredith has gone to Today to take Katie’s place. And you know where Katie has gone. Everyone knows where Katie has gone. Her endlessly promoted debut on The CBS Evening News as the first solo female anchor on national news was the really big story of yesterday.
But, first, how did Rosie do? Not so hot. She was definitely wobbly on her first day back on the girl-talk grind. Meredith Vieira, as the show’s moderator, was able to steer the conversation with her journalistic smarts and keep the show lively, gossipy, and entertaining. She also, as one longtime View watcher told me, could, at the same time, look gorgeous and talk dirty in a very lady-like way. This is not a skill-set Rosie possesses.
A decade ago, when she was the hostess of her own show, Rosie was promoted as the Queen of Nice. That’s when she pretended she really, really, really had a major crush on Tom Cruise. And she had a women’s magazine of her own, a remake of the century-old McCall’s. But then Rosie quit her show, came out as a lesbian and a gay activist, cut her hair in a buzz cut, and told a night-club audience, “The bitch ain’t so nice anymore.” Her magazine’s newsstand sales collapsed and the magazine imploded.
Tuesday, she didn’t quite play the Queen of Nice on The View, but she was certainly trying to be a nicer, more endearing Rosie once again. To show she just wanted to be one of the girls, she wore high heels, was very respectful to Barbara Walters, and discussed her toddler’s toilet training. She indicated that a large, funeral-like floral arrangement at her feet had been a gift from Tom Cruise. The only thing she would say about Tom, the butt of endless View jokes recently, was that he was a “nice guy.” Not only wasn’t she outrageous, she was kind of bland.
In one segment, she talked about the biggest mistakes she had made. She seemed to suggest that it was not her coming out as a lesbian and “marrying” her girlfriend that had hurt her career, but rather, it was that unflattering haircut. The buzz, she seemed to imply, was the real problem — as if her magazine would not have imploded if she had gone to Frederick Fekkai. And her co-hosts, also trying to be so nice, seemed to agree. You can only imagine what recently departed Star Jones Reynold, with whom Rosie had feuded, would have had to say.
But enough about Rosie. What about Katie? She, after all, is the $15 million woman. (Rosie, by the way, is only making $2 million and has been given a list of 360 words by ABC she can’t say on the air.) How did Katie do?
Well, she looked good, was beautifully styled in a white jacket and black dress, and looked so well-rested that you might think she just had a little something done to her eyes. And, yes, I know we are not supposed to care how she looked, but CBS, I’m sure, didn’t mind all the women tuning it to check her out.
The show started with a mini 60 Minutes-type piece on Afghanistan by “Chief Foreign Correspondent” Lara Logan, in which she was taken by a Taliban commander to view enemy soldiers openly displaying weapons less than ten miles from an American base. But Katie didn’t tell me what I really wondered about: Had Lara traced her steps back to tell the American commander exactly where she had been?
That was followed by an interview with New York Times op-ed columnist Thomas Friedman about what we are doing wrong in the war against terror. It was a long segment and seemed a lot more like anti-administration opinion than news.
There were a couple other features too — a feel-good human-interest story, and a report on the oil gusher in the Gulf that should be a feel-good story, but didn’t come off that way.
But the one segment that will be talked about around the coffee cart was the first look at the Vanity Fair cover of Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes, and their TomKat baby Suri. Great promotion for the magazine. And where did that baby get all that hair? Weird!
At the end, Katie asked viewers to help her come up with a closing line, like Dan Rather’s “Courage”; she said they should e-mail her their suggestions, because they would be “fun to read.” A touch of cuteness, I guess, that she and her producers just couldn’t resist.
Katie’s Evening News was slickly produced, a little languid, and no, it wasn’t a real makeover of the format, but just a very cautious glitzing it up. Watching the show made you wonder about only one thing: What had all the hype really been about, and why had you, like millions of others, been so taken in?