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TELEVISION REVIEW

‘The Talk’ makes a toothless debut

‘View’ wannabe lacks bite — and informed opinion

From left: Leah Remini, Sara Gilbert, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Holly Robinson Peete, Sharon Osbourne, and Julie Chen. From left: Leah Remini, Sara Gilbert, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Holly Robinson Peete, Sharon Osbourne, and Julie Chen. (Cliff Lipson/Cbs)
By Matthew Gilbert
Globe Staff / October 19, 2010

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‘The Talk’’ is a new daytime talk show modeled as “The View’’ for mothers. Let’s call this review of yesterday’s premiere “The No Thanks.’’

The CBS show, which aired at 2 p.m. on Channel 4, came off as yet another playground for TV personalities looking for attention. The personalities in question — Julie Chen, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Leah Remini, Holly Robinson Peete, and Marissa Jaret Winokur — had nothing interesting or, more importantly, informed to say as they played in their over-lighted sandbox. And neither did first guest Christie Brinkley, who talked about bullying and her Facebook friends being “my gardenias.’’ But that didn’t stop anyone from nattering on and on. Like “The View,’’ “The Talk’’ was an hour of plastic blatherers pretending to be a microcosm of American women.

Chen is clearly the Queen Bee Barbara Walters figure, the one in charge. She presided calmly over the round-table conversation and later the Brinkley interview, calling forth her “Asian Zen thing,’’ as she put it. We saw good-luck videos from the panelists’ kids — so cute! — except when it came to Chen, whose son is too young to talk. For Chen’s video, her husband, CBS president Les Moonves, appeared and said, “I love my wife so much. And if [the show] doesn’t work, I’ll cancel you.’’ To which Chen replied, “Two can play that game, baby,’’ by which she meant something — I’m not sure what, although it seemed to have bedroom connotations.

The hosts all tried hard to establish their personalities and roles quickly. Remini really, really, really wants us to know she’s the earthy extrovert; Gilbert is aiming to be the sensible one; Robinson Peete is the overwhelmed mom; and Osbourne is the let’s-get-realist who actually asked Brinkley if she uses Botox. So brassy! Of course Brinkley said no, and tried to spin a little comic vignette about how she spent the summer under a hat the one time she tried it. It was a painfully awkward and scripted story, but easier to take than her comments about divorce, when she said that “divorce courts need to catch up with what’s happening in our country now.’’ None of the ladies asked her to clarify; no one, it seems, is going to be the follow-up-question one.

Winokur, ever effusive, is primarily responsible for taped segments, which is probably a good thing. If she, Remini, and Osbourne were at the same table in the same conversation, the house might fall in. Yesterday’s video by Winokur was about when to discuss sex with your kids, which was light and completely unenlightening. Winokur was horrified at one expert’s suggestion that she actually use the correct anatomical labels for sex organs. That led to a post-video chat in which Remini said she preferred to use the word “cupcake’’ with her daughter. In this and other sharing moments, the ladies stuck to the cutesy, ultra-cheery mom material, and it’s an open question whether or not they will eventually veer into more controversial political territory, like “The View,’’ to get some tabloid and viral notice.

To be fair, a new daily talk show is a work in progress, as we’ve seen so often on late night TV. The tension that goes along with a premiere undermines what a talk show ought to be: relaxed, spontaneous, entertaining. We’ll see if “The Talk’’ improves in the coming weeks. At the end of yesterday’s hour, Osbourne said, “We’ve all been polite and nice. Maybe tomorrow we’ll be different.’’ Let’s hope so.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at gilbert@globe.com.

THE TALK

Starring: Sara Gilbert, Julie Chen, Leah Remini, Sharon Osbourne, Holly Robinson Peete, Marissa Jaret Winokur

On: CBS, Channel 4

Time: Afternoons, 2-3 p.m.