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Julie Chen, Sharon Osbourne and other celeb moms sit around talking on 'The Talk'

October 18, 2010 |  2:43 pm

  99787_D0907b2_LS According to its own mythology, “The Talk,” which is CBS’ new daytime answer to “The View,” came about when actress Sara Gilbert joined a mothers’ support group and  quickly realized that moms everywhere could use a little humor, a little insight, a little help. For a professional performer (best known as Darlene on “Roseanne”), that means a talk show in which mothers can talk about what’s really going on with them and their families.  

An admirable, if not terribly original, goal. But the problem with creating a mom-driven talk show that “keeps it real” is that real moms don’t get talk shows.  Celebrity moms get talk shows. In this case that would be Gilbert, “The Early Show’s” Julie Chen, Leah Remini (“King of Queens"), Holly Robinson Peete (“21 Jump Street”), Marissa Jaret Winokur (Broadway’s original and Tony-winning Tracy Turnblad in "Hairspray") and Sharon Osbourne.

Sharon Osbourne, for Pete's sake.

Technically, of course, they are all real mothers, but they experience motherhood in a rather rarified, which is to say rich and famous, my-friend-Jennifer-Lopez (who appears on Tuesday's show) sort of way.

If the disconnect between Gilbert’s original thought and the actual show wasn’t apparent during promos for the first guest — uber-"real mom" Christie Brinkley — it became alarmingly, nay, hilariously obvious early on in the first show. Videos of the hosts’ children wishing them luck were aired with the predictable tension between adoration and embarrassment until it was Chen's turn. Chen’s son is only a year old, so her video was made by her husband. Who is, of course, CBS Chief Executive Leslie Moonves, who said he hopes the show does well because he really loves his wife, but if it doesn’t he’ll cancel it. Hahaha.

This is exactly the kind of trenchant real-life issue that keeps women all over the country on the phone and Facebook, for hours.

Actually, it would be fascinating to hear Chen discuss what it’s like to work in such a high-profile way for her husband, but the conversation quickly turned to other matters. Like how beautiful Christie Brinkley is (very very) and how she stays that way (exercising all the time, including while drying her hair) and if she has any advice for women in the midst of bad divorces (narcissism should somehow be legislated against) or kids facing cyber-bullying.

This last topic was offered by Osbourne while Brinkley was trying to dance around slamming her ex-husband Peter Cook and had some promise of reaching beyond the realm of the habitually personally-trained. But it quickly became a diatribe against those who tear down the children of famous people, even, apparently, those who put their kids in the line of fire by turning family life into a reality show. Of course, it isn’t fair when kids of stars get dragged into things, but to most Americans, "cyber-bullying" doesn't include TMZ.

With an absence of irony that was gorgeous to watch, Brinkley, the anti-narcissist, complained that her daughter, Alexa Ray Joel, has been criticized for “not looking like me,” then praised Alexa for launching her music career and modeling deal with no help from either parent (“It just happened,” Brinkley said of the Prell campaign), only to hold up a copy of Alexa’s new CD, which she distributed to the audience.

Just keepin’ it real.

Things were slightly less “Early Show” in the second half, when Winokur took to the streets to ask experts and real folks at what age parents should talk to their kids about sex. Winokur has a wide-eyed affability that makes her a natural for such things, but the segment, and the subsequent on-set discussion, was played more for laughs than an actual exchange of opinion. Still, there were flashes of possibility when all the women were together and it would have been nice to hear them actually talk about why “the sex talk” elicits such strong opinions on both sides, and how things have or haven’t changed.

Gilbert, who, for the record, seems like precisely the sort of mother you’d like to see sitting across from you in a parenting group, needs to speak up more — the show was her idea, after all, and of all the hosts, she seems the best capable of “real.”  But Remini is a fun and frank presence, as is Winokur. Though the world already has far too much access to the thoughts of Sharon Osbourne, she does know the format up, down and sideways, which is helpful, especially in these early days, while Peete, who has four kids, including 13-year old twins, has in-the-trenches credibility.

The first week is chock-full of celebrity moms — Jennifer Lopez, reality star Melissa Rycroft, "Grey's Anatomy's" Chandra Wilson, Jamie Lee Curtis — which makes sense, what with Moonves breathing down his wife’s neck. And the premiere of any talk show demands a lot of flash as well as personality and format introduction. But eventually, one hopes, the producers will ratchet down the celebrity quotient, Chen will back off her full-on host/interview mode and the women will all have a chance to talk long enough to say something.

— Mary McNamara

Photo: From left, Leah Remini, Sara Gilbert, Sharon Osbourne, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Holly Robinson Peete and Julie Chen on "The Talk." Credit: Monty Brinton / CBS.

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