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So this is The View without Meghan McCain.
The mood on Tuesday's season premiere was one of celebratory nostalgia and an uncertain future as hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Sara Haines, Joy Behar, and Sunny Hostin returned to the show's studio for the first time since early 2020 to kick off the show's milestone 25th season. After a cold open that riffed on the fact that no one had to wear pants during the show's Zoom era, the hosts took to the table for a Day of Hot Topics, one that saw the sizable void left by conservative lightning rod Meghan McCain — who departed the show at the end of last season — get filled in at least some capacity by Sunny Hostin, who took an antagonistic position on issues like the Afghanistan withdrawal, the Texas abortion bill, and Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain's red-carpet moment.
As Whoopi Goldberg noted — after some characteristic difficulties finding her notecards — the Season 25 premiere marked the 5,374th episode of the show, a span that has seen 22 cohosts (plus part-timer Ana Navarro), three co-hosts who left and returned (including Sara and Joy themselves, as well as Rosie O'Donnell, whom Joy fully forgot). The episode set what will surely be a tone for the rest of the season of looking back at The View through the years, including a montage of moments where The View was either referenced, made fun of, or parodied in pup culture. Yes, it did include Fred Armisen as Joy Behar saying "So what? Who cares?"
The premiere episode was also a Day of Hot Topics, which hit a bit differently with McCain no longer around to spar with her more left-leaning co-hosts. Of all the women, it was Sunny Hostin who staked out more extreme positions. On the topic of President Biden's falling approval numbers and the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, Hostin led her remarks with a grave tone, saying, "I don't think that the withdrawal was handled appropriately." When the topic turned to the controversial Texas law that de facto bans abortions in the state, Hostin made sure to mention her own moral objections to abortion. And even in a more lighthearted segment where the ladies discussed red carpet video that showed Scenes from a Marriage co-stars Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain — who are longtime friends but each married to other people — engaging in arm-kisses and seemingly lustful glances, Sunny was very disapproving of the whole matter.
Of course, the differences between Hostin and McCain were made incredibly apparent in everything that followed her initial antagonistic stances. Hostin, easily the most nuanced political mind on the panel, spoke with thoughtfulness about Biden's decision to withdraw troops, the revisionist history of the war coming from the political Right, and her belief that Donald Trump cut a deal with the Taliban before he left office to put Biden in his no-win situation. On the topic of the Texas abortion ban, she again brought up the hypocrisy of the right and its inconsistent "pro life" stances. It was hard not to imagine what McCain would have responded in moments that would have likely gone viral, but were now being discussed in more measured terms. Of course, The View has never exactly thrived on measured discussions of anything.
REACTION TO U.S. AFGHANISTAN WITHDRAWAL: With Pres. Biden's approval rating dropping recently after he's been criticized strongly for his handling of the United States' withdrawal from Afghanistan, the co-hosts weigh in. https://t.co/tG3p1SsWKd pic.twitter.com/OeBvge8xJ2— The View (@TheView) September 7, 2021
The most memorable moments of this morning's premiere will likely be the small ones that signaled the returning cohosts' camaraderie with each other. Joy talking about taking a weed gummy over her summer break, or Whoopi overcoming her fear of flying to travel to Sardinia, or Sara demonstrating on Joy how arm-kisses could indeed be platonic. If this anniversary season is going to be celebratory, at least there'll be some be good vibes to go around.... even if nobody is wearing pants.
The ladies of #TheView are back in our New York City studio after a year and a half of working from home ... but this may call for pants other than sweatpants! 😂 https://t.co/cVclFZQmjA pic.twitter.com/ZY1e2qDT7i— The View (@TheView) September 7, 2021
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Joe Reid is the Managing Editor at Primetimer and co-host of the This Had Oscar Buzz podcast. His work has appeared in Decider, NPR, HuffPost, The Atlantic, Slate, Polygon, Vanity Fair, Vulture, The A.V. Club and more.