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john doyle

Dry skin is not my problem. My problem is the skin-crawling thing that happens when I occasionally watch daytime TV. You get a lot of ads for dry skin remedies on daytime TV. The skin-crawling thing, not so much.

Long ago, I realized that Dr. Phil made me ill. Judge Judy gave me a headache. When Oprah was on, Oprah put me to sleep. Dr. Oz I do not trust on matters medical. He's just too breezy. Ellen DeGeneres starts up the skin-crawling thing. All that too-sweet enthusiasm. Katie does that too, because on the rare occasion when I've seen it, I always think that Katie Couric is way, way too smart for the dopey things she does on her show.

I admit a weakness for Bethenny Frankel, whose syndicated show Bethenny started this week (weekdays, CTV, 3 p.m.), because Frankel has a good-humoured directness. She's darn lucky to have landed a chat show and she acts like she knows it, having as much frivolous fun as she can. She's cheeky and an outrageous flirt.

The View brings on the skin-crawling condition. With all due respect to the ladies of The View, there are few more pithy and frightening insights into the insularity of the American culture. I'm appalled that Jenny McCarthy is now onboard at The View with her dangerous opinions about vaccinations, and other things.

Thus, it was with some trepidation that I approached the new show, The Social (CTV, weekdays, 1 p.m.). Four women sit around a table and discuss stuff. Like The View, but not The View. In fact a lot of effort has gone into CTV and the ladies making it clear that The Social is not The View from Up North, or such-like. The upshot is this: "The View is another show."

First I went to The Social's website and discovered this promo text: "You know our hosts love to stir the hot-topic pot, but they're also big on fashion. Get a pair of those killer heels you saw on the show, or steal your favourite host's look (we won't tell!)"

The four lady hosts are TV veterans Melissa Grelo, Traci Melchor (whose Twitter handle is, believe it not, @stayfabulous), Cynthia Loyst and celebrity blogger Lainey Lui. They talk, they josh. They answer your tweets and e-mails. They sort of interview celebrities. They sit in awe when some "fashion expert" comes on to introduce your bargain-priced, must-have looks. Sample from the first show – "The dressed-up sweatshirt is, like, huge this season."

Also covered on that first show – politicians smoking pot, the Kardashians, a "dating bracelet," advice on how to say "no" from an etiquette expert, "revenge porn" and the matter of libel on the Internet. The consensus on the last topic was, "it's a slippery slope." Wisdom, right there, from the hot-topic pot.

Far as I can tell, Grelo is in charge. Lui has the sharpest tongue, but appears subdued. Half the time, I'm not sure what Melchor is talking about. Loyst is somebody I was on a panel with a couple of years ago. I was struck then by her formidable ability to be oblivious to the presence of others (a distinguished actor, a producer, some other TV types) and expected her to be ultra-cocky here. Instead she looks slightly nervous. Not in the groove yet, but it's early days.

As mandated, a phenomenal amount of The Social's content is based on social media. Every darned story seems to be rooted in Twitter or Facebook. Most days, it's like a talking Twitter feed, utterly unmemorable, and one suspects the viewer reaction is "so what?" It's just a so-what show, so far.

The most memorable moment of the first week was during the first hour, when Lui appeared to say, apropos of the saying "no" issue, "I know some bitches who have long memories!" Some more of that authenticity and there would be no skin-crawling quality to The Social.

Airing tonightAmerican Masters: Billie Jean King (many PBS stations, 9 p.m.) is an excellent journey through the former tennis champ's career and personal life. Some astonishing material from the 1970's highlights the relentless male chauvinism she faced and battled against. Her marriage is covered and her decision to declare that she is lesbian. Through it all, King emerges as a formidable, likeable figure. Some viewers might be nostalgic for her heyday, others will realize it's best those days are over.