Rosie Perez Is the Best Thing About the New 'View' , Says PEOPLE'S Critic

"It was stiff, polite and airless," PEOPLE's critic says of the season 18 premiere that brought back Rosie O'Donnell

Photo: ABC/Lou Rocco

The post-Barbara Walters version of The View made its premiere Monday on ABC, using Taylor Swift‘s "Shake It Off" to greet the new panel: “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate I shake it off, shake it off.”

This seems like a rather defensive posture for a show starting its 18th season.

But then again.

Other than new host Rosie Perez talking about how she learned kung fu “just in case I had to kick some ass,” the hour didn’t go too well. It was stiff, polite and airless, like one of those Taiwanese parody cartoons that “dramatize” news scandals.

Only there was no scandal. Just four women in a revamped set that looked like an amphitheater, done up with some color touches from Nate Berkus’s old set.

Whoopi Goldberg is the only member of the team whose tenure continues over from the now-ended Walters era. Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy have been replaced by funny, straight-shooting actress Perez (who made her movie debut in Do the Right Thing Back back in 1989) and Republican political analyst Nicolle Wallace (who worked for both George W. Bush and John McCain, and was played by Sarah Paulson in the excellent HBO movie Game Change).

And, of course, there’s Rosie O’Donnell, who in the past has been a strong, often controversial voice on the show. This time she began by showing off her pedicured toes. She wore stylish but sensible glasses and stylish but sensible hair that made her look like Mary McDonnell on Major Crimes. She was not planning on being a strong, controversial voice, at least not in this first hour.

Well, Ms. O’Donnell, you can start yelling at any time.

This was only the first day’s show, without any celebrity guests to liven the talk. One assumes that everyone over time will develop a rapport or even animosity, and that will get the conversation rolling or thumping along angrily.

The day’s “Hot Topic” – domestic violence in sports, notably the appalling video of football player Ray Rice punching out Janay Palmer Rice in an elevator – was a calmly anti-feminist discussion that scarcely acknowledged that a woman wound up on the floor. There seemed to be a sense that we should be worrying about why athletes are violent, the PR agendas of various parties and so on.

Perez, at least, acknowledged that Janay Palmer Rice appeared to be “cold-clocked.”

She also provided a few amusing moments when she asked Nicolle Wallace about working with Sarah Palin: “One, what was it like when you first met her? Two, did the winking get on your nerves? And, three, when did you wanna just pop her?”

The third question probably wasn’t the best thing to ask, given the day’s “Hot Topic.”

Unless we should start worrying about what makes The View violent.

So … that was it.

I had been hoping that any of the following might have been recruited to take a spot and shake up this latest table: Ann Coulter, Zosia Mamet from Girls or maybe even religious scholar Elaine Pagels, the renowned expert on the Gnostic Gospels.

However, Perez looks like a keeper.

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