'The View' shakeup no blow to Walters

Since the show's inception nine years ago, critics of ABC's The View have described the program as a catty, insignificant gabfest similar to something you'd find at a high school pajama party - with far bigger salaries and egos, of course.

Since the show's inception nine years ago, critics of ABC's The View have described the program as a catty, insignificant gabfest similar to something you'd find at a high school pajama party - with far bigger salaries and egos, of course.

The show famously got off to a rough start when first-year host Debbie Matenopoulos' ditsy antics embarrassed one too many guests and did nothing to bring the show above its mindless image. And given the recent brouhaha over Star Jones Reynolds' departure, or rather the power struggle over the way it was announced, it may be hard to challenge the idea that the show hasn't made any progress since then.

Indeed, for anyone who was lucky enough to watch both Reynolds' announcement of her impending departure and/or Barbara Walters' explanation of Reynolds' permanent banishment from the show - and both were readily available on several gossip Web sites, thanks to YouTube and Veoh - the whole affair had a very Mean Girls feel about it, with Walters playing the part of the Queen Bee.

As Walters explained with great authority that Reynolds would no longer be on the show, effective immediately - just one day after Reynolds had prematurely made the announcement of her impending departure - one message came through loud and clear: No one messes with Barbara Walters.

After all, it's been her show since the beginning, and although her appearance hasn't been a regular fixture, this was her announcement to make - or at least dictate when it would be made.

Rumors of Reynolds' departure had been swirling around in the media community for months. And with Meredith Vieira leaving to join Today and Rosie O'Donnell, a frequent and harsh critic of Reynolds, named as her replacement, The View without Reynolds became a given.

So, Reynolds' announcement on that fateful Tuesday wasn't a surprise, but it did set off a chain of events that has crossed into "she said, she said" territory, especially after Reynolds told People she was fired and Walters countered back with comments of her own.

While it may be difficult to sort out exactly what happened, at the root of this situation is a very simple premise: This has been a veritable battle of the brands from the beginning.

In one corner stands Reynolds: A relatively unknown lawyer when she joined The View nine years ago, she has since become Payless Shoes spokeswoman and constant fodder for the gossip pages. Her wedding in 2004 to banker Al Reynolds reportedly was the beginning of her deteriorating relationship with viewers. In fact, her contract with The View was not renewed in part because she had reportedly fallen out of favor with viewers who were turned off when she dropped names of wedding vendors in hopes of getting freebies for her big day.

Another sore issue was her dramatic weight loss and her refusal to discuss how she achieved it, which probably further alienated her from the show's audience.

On the other hand, Walters has never needed a show like The View to make a name for her-self. A respected journalist, she founded the program as an experiment - and it has remained her experiment. So, while the ABC brass had a hand in opting not to renew Reynolds' contract, it is Walters who is still the face of the brand. Her speech about why Reynolds would not return to the show amounted to a boss explaining why an insubordinate employee had been let go.

Still, when all is said and done, it's highly unlikely that any of this will have any real effect on The View's ratings come September. Instead, all of the recent drama will probably help to revive a brand that undoubtedly needed some shaking up.

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