Meredith Vieira is a loveable TV personality because she is essentially a loveable person -- no one that I'm aware of has ever challenged the basic truth of that equation over her 30-year run on the national TV stage.
But should a loveable personality like hers be showcased in a TV vehicle as conspicuously predicated on that lovability as the new "Meredith Vieira Show," which aired on WNBC/4 a little while ago? You'll note, not inaccurately, that it's a whole lot of love -- maybe too much -- which can and did force this newcomer into a swamp of saccharine and good vibes and real down-home-just-like-you-and-me baloney.
This was, we learned, her "home away from home" -- a cluttered, messy set that looked less like a "home" than a set conspicuously strewn with a tchotchkes that were strategically placed to make it look like someone's "home."
She's doing this show, we were told, because "I really miss you," which hardly sounds like a compelling reason to return to the grind of daytime TV as much as a slogan in support of that return.
She's also doing this "to make a difference in everyone's life and have fun doing it; that's my story in a nutshell." Again, well, ditto.
Vieira had the perfectly understandable, and ultimately regrettable, impulse to cram a lot into this first edition: a taped "greeting card" from her family, a surprise visit from sons, a Broadway sampler with appearances from the cast of "Mamma Mia," performances by Peter Gallagher and James Monroe Iglehart ... and finally, the first and only guest Jennifer Lopez, who got the questions she always gets that are typically crafted to extract some sort of vague insight into sexy momhood or dating at age 45. "It's so funny I go through through this in public," she said good-naturedly. "It's so ridiculous."
Yeah, it is.
Vieira then introduced one of the “TMVS” in-show games "Car-E-oke" - a sort of "name-that-tune" stunt that was endless, painful and silly - and later "Touchy-Feely," where prizes are bestowed upon the audience member who can guess what he or she is feeling, and - likewise - essentially disposable too..
Did I mention prizes? Those were given out today as well
The best part of the show was in fact the last segment - little girls from "Dancing Dreams," which helps disabled children realize their dream of dancing. Only then, in a brief glittering millisecond, did the real Meredith Vieira finally arrive - or at least the one we wanted to be there all along, and not the pre-packaged version that she insisted she would never be or become.
This newcomer needs to take a deep breath, settle down, get rid of flab, and clutter, and do what it always promised it would do - showcase Vieira one on one with people who have something of substance to say, and who feel that Vieira is the only person on TV they can feel comfortable enough around to say those things to.
By the way, Lopez is certainly one of those people, but in this format, with this hodgepodge, she became just another big-name celebrity peddling her wares, and offering nothing - nothing - she hasn't said elsewhere a thousand times before.
First-edition grade: C -