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'The Talk' premiere review: Les Moonves tells wife Julie Chen, 'If it doesn't work, I'll cancel you'

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The first day of any talk show is always a bit stiff, so the premiere edition of The Talk — with a panel featuring Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Leah Remini, and Holly Robinson Peete — must be given a pass. Well, a partial pass. After all, these are all TV pros, even if, as Remini noted, some of them are more used to working with scripted material.

And that was the main flaw in the premiere: It seemed scripted down to the last second. The hour began with pre-taped “surprise messages” from the children of the hosts… except for Chen’s, whose child is too young to talk. (No one on the panel looked surprised at the messages, and Remini admitted she’d taped hers herself.) Chen’s husband, CBS president Les Moonves, provided the  Chen-Moonves household encouragement, saying, “I love my wife so much. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll cancel you.” Chen remained calm in the face of this, ascribing it to “my Asian Zen thing.”

“We have to give credit to Sara Gilbert, it was her idea” said Chen. Gilbert is the creator and co-producer of The Talk. It was said that “the idea is to be a women support group.” The panel didn’t tackle any “hot topics” in the manner of the show that has clearly inspired it, The View. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Christie Brinkley was the first guest, promoted as “her first interview in years!” She talked Botox (she’s not a fan), organic living (she’s a fan), and she thinks the hosts “have chemistry.” Chen asked the one question that made Brinkley grope for an answer. Bringing up the subject of Brinkley’s difficult divorce, Chen quoted the label Brinkley had applied to her ex: “narcissist.” At first, Brinkley said, “I’ve moved on,” but then, perhaps realizing this wasn’t exactly what she had been brought on for, said that the “divorce courts need to catch up with what’s happening in our country now.” The audience applauded heartily, but what the hell did that mean?

Marissa Jaret Winokur, who will provide taped, outside-the-studio segments, did an awkward segment interviewing various people about when and how they first spoke to their children about sex. It was so cutesy, I thought Gilbert’s face looked as though it was going to collapse into a snicker as the segment ended.

As I said, the first day of a talk show is always uneven. Osbourne said at the very end, “We’ve all been polite and nice. Maybe tomorrow we’ll be different.” She’s right: The talk on The Talk will have to get sharper, funnier, and more spontaneous — fast — or else Whoopi, Joy, Elisabeth and the gang will have a new hot topic to talk about on The View: The fact that Les Moonves’ finger is never far from the “cancellation” button.

Follow: @kentucker

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