Attempting to be folksy but, instead, proving utterly off-putting, Star Jones made her debut as a Court TV talkshow host this week, delivering yet another reminder that Oprah Winfrey’s skills aren’t easily cloned. A strange mix of current events dish and celebrity, Jones kicked things off with former “Grey’s Anatomy” co-star Isaiah Washington in an interview where the questions were as incomprehensible as the answers. Despite the dubious equity built up in her name, Jones appears poorly cast and will need a TV makeover to linger beyond Court’s name switch to TruTV in January.
After her very public firing from “The View,” Star Jones arrives with an insipid smile and almost palpable desire to please, announcing at the outset that her chatfest will be a “safe environment” for celebs and others “to share their stories.” Hmm, guess that’s an easier way to book guests than mass-mailing publicists.
A former prosecutor, Jones surprisingly takes almost no advantage of that background. Instead, she opens with a kind of lightning round of pop culture and current event topics that drone on for nearly a half-hour.
Geraldo Rivera, “Access Hollywood’s” Shaun Robinson and former CBS morning host Rene Syler joined her Monday, while Vivica Fox, Rita Cosby and the New York Post’s Paula Froelich sat in Tuesday for what Jones dubbed a “SHE Party,” as in “Simply Her Experience.” See, and I would have gone with “Seriously Horrible Entertainment.”
Each days, the guests talked over each other in headache-inducing fashion, as Jones exhibited scant facility for moderating but an unerring knack for uttering non sequiturs during a tawdry segment on celebrity sex tapes (note to Dustin Diamond: Any publicity is not good publicity) and another on CBS’ controversial reality show “Kid Nation,” in which she enthused to two academics, “This is one hot topic, dontcha think?”
The piece de resistance, however, was the two-part chat with Washington, who had little left to say after his sit-down on “Larry King Live.” On Monday, Jones gently guided him through a number of awkwardly worded questions, followed by her “open letter” at the show’s conclusion — a chance to directly address the audience with a kind of closing statement regarding that day’s episode, a la Jerry Springer.
On Tuesday, however, Jones called an audible — delaying part two of Washington to spend more time with an Iraq war vet, Jonathan Aponte, who paid to have himself shot to avoid returning to duty. Aponte’s plight is depressing and poignant, but Jones couldn’t think of much more to say other than repeatedly asking him how he felt about it.
If the host’s goal is redemption after her much-ballyhooed departure from “The View,” thus far she’s providing it only to her former employers, while badly seeking to duplicate “The View’s” chatty gal-to-gal tone.
It’s possible, of course, that Jones and her team will gradually revise the formula to better suit her limitations, but at this point, what she cloyingly refers to as “the Star treatment” is, in reality, strictly a third-class affair.