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‘The View’ Reviews: Is Rosie O’Donnell Better The Second Time Around or Just Boring?

Critics are split over the direction of ABC’s long-standing talk show, with some feeling it has become watered down

“The View” kicked off Season 18 with excellent ratings Monday, but critics are split over whether ABC’s long-standing daytime talker has improved.

See video: ‘The View’s Conservative Co-Host Nicolle Wallace Fuels First Political Debate: Obama Doesn’t Love People

The network had touted the new season as the “dawn of a new era,” with only co-host Whoopi Goldberg remaining from last season’s panel after the ousting of co-hosts Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy. On Monday Goldberg was joined by three new co-hosts: Rosie O’Donnell, who returned to the show after a seven-year hiatus, actress Rosie Perez and right-wing political commentator Nicolle Wallace.

The changes extended beyond the onscreen personalities, too. ABC replaced former executive producer Bill Geddie over the summer with Bill Wolff from MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show.”

Viewers tuned in en masse to see the revamped lineup — ratings for Monday’s premiere marked the show’s biggest numbers in eight years. But did “The View” get better?

Also read: ‘The View’s’ New Co-Host Nicolle Wallace on Meeting Sarah Palin: ‘I Was On Vicodin’

TheWrap’s Jethro Nededog thinks so. In his assessment, he felt that “ABC got it right” with its new hires.

“Wallace is finally a conservative panelist that knows what she’s talking about,” wrote Nededog. “She can not only laugh about the foibles of Sarah Palin and Bush, but she is an open book as to the behind-the-scenes stories.”

As for Perez, Nededog noted the famous New Yorker had taken steps to nearly rid herself of her infamous accent. However, he believes the true test will be for the producers.

“Led by former ‘Rachel Maddow Show’ executive producer Bill Wolff, the producers played the first episode back very well,” said Nededog. “It was light on content and there were no celebrity guests other than Kristin Chenoweth performing a song in tribute to Rivers, but that seemed to be needed in order to introduce the new panel.”

But not every reviewer was kind to the newly revamped panel and its celebrity guest.

“The show closed with the Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth performing a tribute to Joan Rivers, singing ‘Borrowed Angels,'” wrote Alessandra Stanley of the New York Times. “A song that trills with the kind of mawkish piety that used to prompt Ms. Rivers, a frequent guest on ‘The View,’ to stick a finger down her throat and make gagging noises.”

Stanley seemed most disappointed by Wallace’s carefully thought-out words, which differed from former conservative co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck’s more entertaining off-the-cuff style.

“On Monday [Wallace] didn’t disagree with anyone in a discussion of the N.F.L.’s handling of the Ray Rice scandal,” said Stanley. “But Ms. Wallace did artfully signal her distance from the mistakes of the Bush administration.”

The Washington Post’s Emily Yahr detailed several of Season 18’s new segments, but explained the show’s main thrust hadn’t really changed: “The premiere was very similar to what the show has always been.”

Of O’Donnell’s return, Yahr suggested the co-host had simmered down: “She seems more mellow than anything — and was even barefoot on stage — as she announced that since the last time she was on the show, she got married, had a baby and lost 50 pounds.”

Also read: Rosie O’Donnell’s Return Boosts ‘The View’ to Biggest Premiere Audience in 8 Years

The Daily Beast’s Kevin Dillon noted the show’s tone had grown more civil, but possibly to its own detriment. “The debate was measured, ordered,” he wrote.

“This current ‘View’ is almost unrecognizable,” he continued. “Yes, we got everything we thought we wanted in a new ‘View.’ But now we should wonder whether we should have wanted it in the first place.

“Because this respectable, illuminating ‘View’ was also — let’s face it — kind of boring.”