I never thought I would find myself calling a show a “Guilty Pleasure.” If only because I operate on the Shonda Rhimes definition which is “[…] like saying ‘I’m embarrassed to say I watch it but I can’t stop.’” However, Daytime Divas is such a mess. Of which Vanessa Williams barely keeps everything together and, to some surprise, Chloe Bridges is the one who emerges as a possible breakaway star.
But more on that below.
To put it simply, for those familiar with The View, you pretty much get what was the landscape back when executive producer Star Jones was on the program. Maxine (Vanessa L. Williams) is basically a Black Barbara Walters; Mo (Tichina Arnold) is a more brash and aggressive Joy Behar; Heather (Fiona Gubelmann) is their Elisabeth Hasselbeck; Kibby (Chloe Bridges), well she is the only one who doesn’t bring to mind any comparisons; and lastly there is Nina (Camille Guaty). Someone who, I guess, you can consider the Star Jones of the show.
Together, these women barely talk about any topic, be it social or political. Pretty much it is all fluff. What really is focused on is the backstage drama. Of which includes Maxine’s adopted son Shawn (McKinley Freeman), having an affair with Nina [note] Nina is married to this man named Andrew (Ness Bautista) who is running for public office. [/note] Following that is Maxine and Mo always at each other’s necks due to each other’s ego. There is also some back and forth between the liberal [note] sexually and personality wise [/note] Kibby and the conservative Heather.
But all of that is just the episode to episode stuff. The big storylines deal with the death of Maxine’s husband Ted (Rick Hearst), and who did it; Heather and husband Brad’s (Rich McDonald) rocky relationship, partly due to them having a trans daughter Ella (Will Buie Jr.); Kibby trying to stay sober and deal with the trauma she experienced as a child star; Mo just keeping and finding a job; and Nina struggling to remain relevant on a show in which her character’s mystery falls flat and she struggles to not end up just being Shawn’s baby mama.
Chloe Bridges as Kibby
As noted in the pilot, most people probably know Bridges from her work on The Carrie Diaries alongside Faking It. In both shows, she played someone who wasn’t required to have much of a dramatic reach. She played someone rich who had some issues but certainly wasn’t a full on complicated figure.
In Daytime Divas, however, Bridges gets to show a full-range. In fact, often times she is the sole character who is believable in her role. The pain we see when it comes to how terrible her mother Sheree (Tammy Blanchard) is, much less the trauma Vance (Rob Estes) cause is heart breaking. This especially is amplified as her relationship with Maxine brings about the best out of both of them. Kibby gets to be this young recovering addict who found someone to be a maternal figure, and Maxine can be this sage. Someone beyond ridiculous soap opera plots and be reminiscent to Jacqueline on The Bold Type. That is, an established leader in the industry willing to invest in her underlings. But more on that later.
Nina & Shawn
Nina and Shawn are both buried in the absolute worse storylines. For Shawn, he goes from playing the other man to a possible murder suspect. For Nina, she goes from an adulteress to this woman with a very disappointing secret. After that, she is simply Shawn’s baby momma and then she puts her detective hat on to learn the truth about Ted’s death. Not because she is sick and tired of Maxine giving her no real juicy investigative segments, but just so Shawn can learn the truth. She risks her job and Maxine’s wrath for that.
Which you may think is cute. Her looking out for her man, but their relationship, Shawn and Nina’s, is so over the place that it is rare that you can just look at them and swoon. For within 20 minutes there is going to be a blow up between them over trust issues.
I get that Vanessa Williams’ plays characters like Maxine effortlessly. I’ll even admit getting a Wilhelmina 2.0 was part of the appeal of this show. Yet, while the Maxine vs. Mo thing was appealing, the whole “Who killed Ted” nonsense left me bored to the point of wanting to stop covering this show. But what really messed things up was watching The Bold Type. On that show, there is a character named Jacqueline. She is in a similar position to Maxine for she is well accomplished in her field. Yet, she is allowed to not have this soap opera storyline. Her challenges aren’t because her life is messy but because of the men who control the finances, because her underlings probably need more mentorship than she can give while still being at her best, and so on.
At this point in Williams’ career, I’d love to see her play that type of role. In fact, I’d love if Black women, in general, got to play roles like that vs. being the top of their fields and utter messes in private.
Now, I should note, as said in Kibby’s highlight, Maxine does get the opportunity to be in a Jacqueline-esque situation but those are few and far between.
Lost In Shuffle Storylines
There is a PA named Ramona (Sarah Mack), who is stealing stuff from the set, saves the show while the ladies on the dais have a complete breakdown, and keeps Kibby from killing someone. Yet, despite all that, nothing really happens with her. Alongside her, Leon (Niko Pepaj), whose storyline was bonded to Moe, pretty much ends up lost in the shuffle once she goes missing for a handful of episodes. And yeah, these are two minor characters, but considering the way they interact with the major ones, you’d think what they did would have led to bigger and more interesting things as the season went on.
That is, unless Ramona is supposed to help us understand Anna Crouse and her plight working under Maxine.
On The Fence
Maxine’s Defensive & Offensive Tactics
Again, what we are presented with is Wilhelmina 2.0. With that, naturally, there are schemes, threats, rash actions, and things of that nature. Of which, most are entertaining. Especially those dealing with Maxine dealing with Anna Crouse (Kristen Johnston), her former assistant, alongside dealing with Nina’s ex Andrew. However, the issue which comes with Maxine’s tactics is her show is often used in order to get what she wants. Not in terms of using her platform against whoever is coming after her, but more so that platform being a sacrificial lamb.
Which, as you watch Maxine occasionally battle with the network and hawk how it is her show and her name on the line, it makes every time she puts the show on a sacrificial altar so puzzling.
The Parade of Guest Stars
With the exception of Portia and Janet Mock, as herself, whose appearances are noted below, the rest of the guest stars have no significant effect. At least to me. One could argue Eve’s guest appearance, as Cecile James, lit a fire under Maxine’s behind about her relationship to William (Norm Lewis), but that’s debatable. Otherwise, all we get is a parade of familiar faces who, at best, are just nice to see, like Patti Labelle or like Jillian Rose Reed who just makes you crave having Mo back.
Mo comes roaring in as Maxine’s adversary and no sooner than you become used to seeing Tichina Arnold she disappears. She exits episode 3 and doesn’t return until episode 8. Which doesn’t only put a damper on Maxine’s character but Heather’s as well. For as much as Mo can be considered comic relief, Arnold also was the one who challenged both Williams and Gubelmann. When it came to Williams, while she was still in her usual Wilhelmina Slater/ the character she played in Tyler Perry’s Temptation, she wasn’t all powerful here. Mo was her foil and, arguably, a better thing to watch Maxine deal with than her ex-husband’s death.
Then, when it came to Heather, though opposites in a way, you see a genuine friendship there. Perhaps one of the few on the entire show. So with Mo being snatched off the show, it leaves Heather often times stuck with the guest host to maintain her character’s story. Which, as noted below, works with Portia and also guest star Janet Mock, who plays herself. But this isn’t consistent.
At first, Heather was in the same pickle Nina was in. She had this archetype that seemed like a bore but what could potentially become interesting. Now, Heather’s marriage and having a Trans daughter doesn’t live up to its potential, but enough is done so that if and when season 2 comes about, there is still room to build.
For one major issue with Heather’s storyline is that while you fully get to see and understand the collapse of Brad and Heather’s marriage, the reconciliation seems rushed. Sort of like how Power seemingly was handled [note]The link will take you to spoilers[/note], it is like Daytime Divas had a longer episode order get shortened so Heather making up with her husband got thrown onto the cutting room floor. Making it so when he goes from messing with younger women to suddenly being all cute and the way Heather wants him to be, you are waiting for an ulterior motive. Something besides him missing his wife to be the reason.
But on top of that, there comes all the ways Heather goes against what you consider to be a conservative. Part of which includes the relationships she flirts with having while separated. Which includes men and seemingly a willingness to go there with guest co-host Portia (Tasha Smith). Though the big thing I was waiting for is Heather having Ella come around, in her pretty little dresses, in religious and/or conservative spaces. Seeing Heather having to be an advocate outside of the home against Brad but dealing with those who help solidify her faith and values.
Which, as noted, can happen in season 2, with Brad being right there tag teaming with her. I was just hoping it would have happened this season.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
In many ways, it is like Star Jones didn’t make and sign off on a fictionalized version of her time on The View. Instead, she created a parody. One which may not be slapstick, but surely at times borders ridiculous. Something Williams tries to balance out, by bringing her skills to balance the comedy, soap opera drama, with something rooted in realism. Which can be seen in terms of her work with Arnold, Bridges, and making the best of the Ted murder investigation. However, sometimes even she ends up drowning in the sea of nonsense.
Hence the mixed label. For while Daytime Divas is enjoyable, there will be times you wonder why do you still watch this? In which Bridges, Arnold, Gubelmann, and Williams will remind you. But sometimes it honestly seems like what they give is either not enough or not consistent enough to be relied on.