Raven can see the future, and apparently that future involves a long tenure on The View.
Raven-Symoné, the actress best known for The Cosby Show and her Disney Channel series That's So Raven, is joining ABC's morning chat show, the network announced in a press release Wednesday. Raven's been the frontrunner for the position for some time, chalking up 37 episodes as a guest host. She joins current hosts Whoopi Goldberg, Rosie Perez and Nicolle Wallace on the show Barbara Walters created back in 1997.
Congrats are in order for Raven — and for ABC, which just invested in a lightning rod for controversy unlike anything we've seen since the halcyon days of Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Rosie O'Donnell. In hiring Raven, the network has clearly decided to lean into her bold opinions. It's a gamble, one that could pay off huge or kill The View for good.
Raven got herself in the hottest of waters when she defended ousted Univision host Rodner Figueroa's comments that Michelle Obama looked like "an ape."
"Some people just look like animals," she said. "Is that rude?" To her credit, she clearly knew it was wrong to say and immediately said she'd stop there. To her lack of credit, she said it in the first place.
This is Raven's problem — or, from ABC's eyes, her appeal. She knows what she's saying is going to offend, and she says it anyway. It comes off as purposefully trying to stir the pot. You could call that strong-willed; she's certainly speaking her mind. It makes her good for TV, if not a particularly responsible person.
Not that there's any doubt she believes every word she says, because she clearly does. Raven spoke at length in a 2014 interview with Oprah Winfrey, saying she doesn't choose to identify herself as queer, lesbian, bisexual or even black. "I'm not an African American," she said. "I'm an American."
The comments incited an Internet fervor. Much of what she says does. That's likely what ABC is counting on to bring in ratings.
The View hasn't been the same since the legendary 2006-07 O'Donnell/Hasselbeck season. The show tried to reclaim some of that ratings magic by bringing O'Donnell back in 2014, but that effect was short-lived, and O'Donnell departed again soon after. CBS' own chat show The Talk has since overtaken The View in the ratings.
So yes, bringing the controversial Raven-Symoné on is a risky move. She's going to make headlines and piss viewers off. She could even drive some viewers away. But those former fans are leaving on their own anyway; making a gamble like this is the right call for ABC. If they're going to lose The View, better for it to go out in a burst of Raven-fueled flames than a dull fizzle.