Reviewing a talk show's debut is a little like critiquing a runner's stride on the first mile of a marathon; you may see some big problems early, but it may take a while to figure out just how bad things could get.
So it will be no surprise to note that the first episode of CBS' daytime chat show The Talk was a bit underwhelming — muted by each co-host's almost palpable desire to get along and not screw up.
Focused on an eclectic mix of high-profile moms — including executive producer-creator Sara Gilbert, reality TV star Sharon Osbourne, actor Holly Robinson Peete, comic actor Leah Remini, CBS News anchor Julie Chen and actor Marissa Jaret Winokur — Monday's episode was mostly about just getting through the broadcast.
To that end, Gilbert wisely turned the reins over to Early Show/Big Brother host Chen, who led five of the women (minus Winokur, who showed later) through much of a show that was so well mannered, it kinda forgot to be interesting.
Even superstar guest Christie Brinkley struck a conciliatory note, when asked about her infamous quote about splitting up with rock 'n' roll bad boy Billy Joel — "Google 'divorcing a narcissist' " she reportedly said — then fumbled through a rambling anecdote about the wisdom of keeping her mouth shut.
Except, you know, she was on a talk show. (They did, however, get the amazingly youthful 58-year-old to admit wearing Spanx and trying Botox a few years ago).
Former Roseanne co-star Gilbert might have dreamed up this new show "in her bathtub" as she said Monday, but she was more than willing to let Chen run the table.
Small wonder. Husband Les Moonves is the chief executive of CBS, something he spoofed in a taped greeting promising to cancel the show if it didn't work. "Two can play that game, baby," Chen shot back, leaving little doubt why this mom-centered shadow of The View actually made the network's schedule in the first place.
In fact, Chen offered some of the show's best lines, busting Remini for trading messages on Twitter with an imposter maintaining a fake account (whoever it was also suckered Gilbert and Biggest Loser host Alison Sweeney before the page seemingly was eliminated late Monday).
"Chen is like Smith in the Chinese phone book," joked the host, apparently unaware the imposter had used logos from The Talk and her photo to assume her identity in the Twitterverse.
But it was telling that, while The View has reaped headlines in recent days by openly feuding with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly — curious how that brouhaha kicked off two days before The Talk debuted — this show's raciest lines came when Winokur walked the street with a camera asking random people how to talk with kids about sex.
The Talk unfolded like a relaxed afternoon sipping wine with a bunch of friends while the kids busy themselves in the background.
"Now that we've all been polite and nice, maybe tomorrow we'll be different," cracked Osbourne at the show's end.
Hear, hear, sister. Because there's another word for too-careful talk amongst friends.
And it ain't something that's going to bring much harmony to the Moonves household.