Joy is out! Elisabeth is out! Elisabeth is in! Barbara’s out! Barbara’s never out! You’re forgiven if the feverishly spinning rumor mill surrounding the comings and goings of The View’s hosts has left you hopelessly dizzy.
Allow us to clear things up for you. After conflicting reports all last week, Barbara Walters confirmed three things on Monday morning’s episode of The View. Joy Behar is indeed leaving the show. Despite rumors, Elisabeth Hasselbeck has not been fired and will likely stay on. And not even chicken pox can keep a octogenarian down, as Walters said she is the only person who is never, ever leaving the series.
But with Behar out, Babs is going to have to find a fifth host. And as if Walters played some sort of IMDB roulette or pulled a name out of a hat, Brooke Shields has reportedly surfaced as a leading contender to join the coven of morning show hosts. While the possible casting seems to come out of nowhere—another rumored contender, Ali Wentworth, has a solid résumé of hosting and media experience—it is actually quite inspired.
To begin with, Shields is famous. The talk show world these days is rough. It’s like The Hunger Games over there. Jeff Probst, Ricki Lake, Anderson Cooper, and Rosie O’Donnell—all already big media names—saw their shows starving for viewers and subsequently canceled. If that roster couldn’t hack it, Walters is wise not to hire a little-known person to fill Behar’s chair.
This is a post-Voice world we’re living in. Gone are the days when the Randy Jacksons and Joy Behars and Simon Cowells and Carrie Ann Inabas and Who Is Thats? can be given big breaks as TV personalities on major U.S. TV shows when most Americans have never heard of them. We’re a celebrity-obsessed culture and will always prefer—or at the very least give a highly rated premiere to—a show that casts a star in a major role over a no-namer. That’s not to say Shields has the same celebrity quotient of, say, Britney Spears or Mariah Carey on The X Factor and American Idol. But Shields is recognized and beloved. Plus, the fact that she’s kind of only famous now for used-to-being famous plays to her advantage.
Unlike those carefully crafted, megawatt stars, Shields is far enough removed from the TMZ, publicist-controlled celebrity life to act like a real person on TV. When A-listers sign on to be TV personalities, fans fantasize that these mythical figures are going to reveal their real selves—somehow offer a glimpse of at a least a part of their personality that proves that stars really are just like us. But frustratingly often, these stars are more interested in preserving an image they presume they should be projecting and are rarely flippant or rude or vulnerable or off the cuff or really real at all. Shields, on the other hand, isn’t launching a stadium tour or even promoting a big role in a major movie. She’d have no reason to erect those kind of personality walls.
And Shields is the best kind of famous. She’s the kind of famous that has grown up before our eyes. She’s the kind of famous that knows a lot of other famous people. She’s the kind of famous that went on a date with Michael Jackson.
One reason Whoopi Goldberg makes a great View host is that she’s worked as an actress for so long. She knows a lot of actors. Occasionally on the show she talks about what it’s like to work with them. WE LOVE THAT. How amazing would it be if Shields started telling tales out of school about hobnobbing over the years with her famous buddies. It would be the equivalent of morning-show porn.
It bears repeating again that Shields and Jackson were friends. She spoke about it at Jackson’s memorial service. The way she talked about their time together epitomizes why she has exactly the right personality to be a morning-show host. First, she shared far too much at such a public event. Perfect. Overshare away! Kelly Ripa jokes about her sex life. Katie Couric once stuck a camera up her colon. If you’re not going to overshare on a morning show, you need not apply.
But the way she talked about Jackson was at once eloquent, touching, charming, and even a little irreverent. The View strikes a tricky tonal balance. Really, it does! The Hot Topics segment might start with a concerning rise in rape against women, spiral into a debate over gay marriage, follow with Kathy Griffin talking about a pap smear, segue into a dog fashion show, and end with Snoop Dogg. A good host has to be believable doing all those wildly, wildly different things. Shields is.
And there are also some fascinating aspects to Shields’s career that could give her insight into a lot of things that are frequently bantered about on The View. She was only 14 years old when she filmed Blue Lagoon, a film in which her hair was glued to her breasts to mask her nipples and her character has a sexual awakening alone on island with her ... cousin. She had to testify before Congress to reassure the nation that older body doubles were used for the film’s nude scenes. Do you think someone might have an interesting perspective in a debate about how the entertainment industry sexualizes teenagers and children?
But beyond all that, she’s proved over the years that she is totally, unabashedly game, no matter how foolish she may end up looking. Star on Broadway? Sure. Turn it up to 200 percent to play Miley Cyrus’s mom on Hannah Montana? Why not. Cameo in an utterly ridiculous Jimmy Fallon spoof of Downton Abbey? OK. Lick Matt LeBlanc’s fingers on Friends? Absolutely. Last summer she agreed to sing live in the opening song for the Tony Awards. Why would anyone do this? At best you remember the words, and all people do is make fun of your singing voice. At worst you forget the words, miss your cue, and ruin the number. That is precisely what Shields did. But! BUT! Just the fact that she agreed to participate at all shows a refreshing lack of vanity, and the way she handled the fiasco was refreshingly self-effacing and charming. She cursed about it on live television! How saucy and fun!
Walters on Monday praised Hasselbeck because “she helps give this show perspective and balance.” Walters is exactly right. The best moments from The View come when Hasselbeck kind of fearlessly goes on a tirade expressing her personal views, even though she knows that it’s going to start a huge argument with the other women at the table and many of her viewers. It makes for fiery, captivating, and even uncomfortable television, which is pretty great to watch. A new host has to be willing to go toe to toe with Hasselbeck and maybe even light a few fires of her own. After decades in show business, Shields at least seems like someone who will do that.
And if nothing else: those eyebrows. Waking up to those puppies every morning will just make the world a better place.