When my sister visited last weekend, I told her I would be returning to the set of The Talk. I told her how much I thought the show had improved since its debut three years ago.

My sister gave me a look that said, “Meh.” She’s a fan of that OTHER daytime talk show with a panel of outspoken, funny women. “Nobody ever disagrees with anyone on The Talk,” she said. “They’re too nice to one another.”

To her, that’s boring. It’s a criticism she levels on my ownMOMochat podcast, where Cynematic and I talk about the news of the day with Democratic candidates, progressive advocates and other members of the MOMocrats.

I understand where she’s coming from. Bombast and outrage have built huge audiences for talk show radio. Hell, I remember the first day of my first screenwriting class, when the instructor scrawled one word on the chalkboard in big block letters: CONFLICT. Conflict is drama. It engages people. It makes you care.

And it’s why clips from The View regularly make it onto the evening news.

The Talk: Daytime Fun

But conflict isn’t always fun, and it may not be the best way to present new information. And personally, I have enough conflict in my life. Sometimes, I just wanna be a girl who just wants to have fun.

And this is why I like The Talk. As Sharon Osbourne said at a blogger luncheon following Wednesday’s show, “If you want to be serious or want something political, you watch The View. If you want to go someplace for a cup of tea and chat with your girlfriends, you watch us.”

Bloggers in the Audience

I was thrilled to see several people I knew in the audience at Wednesday’s show, including beauty blogger Romy Schorr, tech guru Carley Knobloch, “Biz Mommy” Tisha Berg, incredible Ana Flores (who just finished a book on raising bilingual kids), the winning Valerie Mitchell (whose site I must now bookmark and visit regularly) and beautiful Beth Feldman, who helped arrange the blogger event.

But I was most excited to see my friends, TechMama and Laptop Magazine contributor Beth BlechermanKimberley Clayton Blaine (who is THE Go to Mom), Los Angelista Liz Dwyer, and my fellow “white Latina,” Yvonne Condes of MomsLA (and now, Babble).

I almost never get to see them any more, and the walk from the parking lot to the studio was like a reunion.

And once we got into the studio, it was like a big party — complete with parting gifts. They did a product segment on Wednesday’s program, and when that happens on The Talk, the entire audience walks out with a sample of everything they featured. The theme of the day was workout gear, in anticipation of all the holiday indulgences that are coming up.

I think God – or Mrs. Osbourne – was trying to tell me something. I’m keeping most of the booty to review here later.

Dishing at the Blogger Lunch

But the real fun came AFTER the show, when we got to break bread The Talk’s outspoken stars:

I didn’t contribute much to the conversation. I did what I usually do when I’m in a large group: I took notes. Here they are, cleaned up and with added notations.

Sheryl Underwood is awesome. (I don’t remember what prompted me to write that. I think it was just my summary impression: The woman is as funny, personalbe and gracious in person as she is on camera. I’m a fan.)

Sara Gilbert thanked the bloggers in attendance, telling us that our support means the world to them. She said the staff credits bloggers and savvy social media with helping along their ratings growth.
Sharon Osbourne spent some time chatting with Beth and Kimberley (who were seated next to her). She noted how she and the rest of the ladies of The Talk treat each other with respect. And that they also respect the importance of social media. Bloggers helped to get them out in the universe.
Then, she asked US for suggestions.
Aisha Tyler said she was the last to join the show, and is just super happy to be here. “It has become a conversation with the viewers, thanks to social media,” she said. She said she was grateful that we care, bother and tweet. And that she was “super proud and loves coming here every day.”
Julie Chen: Thank you for coming. We are following you now. (NOTE: They are! I’m sure these ladies have assistants to do their tweeting for them, but it kind of makes your day when you find a celebrity following YOU instead of the other way around.)
The producers showed a three minute highlight reel of the show’s three seasons. The moments with the ladies and their celebrity guests ranged from hysterically funny to poignant.
Then, each of us had a turn to introduce ourselves, and I had the same thought I get every time I hear what my peers are doing and what their backgrounds are: how the hell did I get invited here?

I also have a hard time describing myself, because I don’t focus on just one thing. I talked about this blog and my background – totally left out the thing that has been occupying all my time recently, MOMocrats – and the work I did recently for BlogHer. Some day I need to write and practice that elevator pitch, because I suck at talking about myself. (Not like when I’mwriting about myself. Somehow, I can’t stop doing that.)
There were so many people at that table who are writing for outfits like Babble, and doing some really cool things. I really need to start getting my act together.

Enough about me. The conversation continued, and turned to a funny riff they did on Brad Pitt’s weird new ad for Chanel No. 5. Someone asked if they thought their spoof would dim their chances of ever getting him to appear on the show.
Aisha noted that they will be doing the show in New Orleans the week of the Superbowl, and the Jolie-Pitts have a house there. Brad Pitt has a sense of humor, she noted. “We may be unfiltered, but we are never mean,” she said. This is one of the things I like about The Talk.
The Conversation Gets Personal

Someone asked if guests shy away from appearing on the show, for fear of getting so caught up in the atmosphere that they say things they regret later.

(NOTE: Although I attribute the following dialogue to The Talk’s stars, I did not record the conversation. The dialogue is the result of me typing as fast as I could on my iPad, which means I was dealing with both typos AND autocorrect. So they are NOT exact quotes, but an approximation of what was said.)

Sharon: It’s a publicist’s job is to protect their client, and you don’t know what is going to be said. So that sometimes makes it difficult.

Julie: This makes our show work, because we don’t have publicists telling us you can’t do this.

Sara: My publicist dumped me a long time ago.

Sharon: We all have the same problems, it doesn’t matter where you are in life. l talked about my kids going in and out of rehab and people said it was an industry thing, but my son was in rehab with a rabbi’s son and a baker’s son. We all have times when we have trouble paying a bill. Why should we be in a position when we shield ourselves? Good to share your life.

Aisha: It’s risky, but I think the fact that we do takes risks is what people respond to. (Note: there is a good chance that the quotes I attribute to Aisha were actually made by Julie. I couldn’t see that part of the table that well.)

Sharon: I just got reprimanded by Justin Bieber fans. Because I said he still looks like a little boy… [and his fans are getting all grown up]. He can’t be the evergreen for 10 year olds. I got annihilated online.

Kimberley noted how on the tape we watched, it only took a few minutes to catch all their personalities.

Sheryl credits the crew.

Sharon: I think it’s interesting we have come together and share the ability to laugh at ourselves. When you’re not, that’s way too precious.

Aisha: Everyone is very supportive of each other taking risks. There are no judges. We’re encouraging, a safety net.

Beth Blecherman noted that the show reflects the current environment in social media, and in fact, incorporates it — not just by inviting groups of bloggers to events like this, but in using real time tweets during the show.

Tisha asked if this was the original concept for the show.

Sara: I think The View is fantastic, but with this show, I never felt [politics] was what I was talking about with my friends. I have more of a natural connection with what we are doing.

Sheryl: I like any place where I can be myself. No one ever knew I was raped or molested. Here I can be myself. We just do it in a way that any woman would do it.

Sara: I love when Sheryl does that because everyone expects her to make them laugh, and they love it when she gets serious, because they don’t expect it and it makes them pay attention.

Aisha: One thing we’re proud of is this kindness at the table, and respect. We may disagree, but there’s a respect there that makes us feel safe enough to express our views without getting shunned.

Sheryl confessed that she has trouble mastering social media, but she loves it when people quote what she says on Twitter. She was touched when someone retweeted one of her jokes.

OMG. They are actually reading US. (This notation is mine.)

Julie: None if us takes ourselves too seriously.

Aisha: That’s why you see these sketches and stuff, we will literally do anything. Everyone is super game. We do five days of TV a week. You want to make a great show. It doesn’t have to be a very special episode of The Talk every single day.
The women were asked who their favorite guests were. They started calling out names like John Stamos, Wayne Brady, Martha Stewart, Jane Fonda…

Sheryl said her best was Rielle Hunter. It was the one time she felt a good eye roll was worth more than a thousand words. She (Rielle) was an odd individual.

Sharon: She couldn’t say what everyone in America wanted her to say, and that was I fucked up.

Sheryl: We’re not that kind if attack dog show, so we let her stay back…

Sharon: If she had said ‘I messed up,’ people would have had respect and everyone would have said yes. But she is not a victim.

Julie: I wish Regis Philbin would come on again, he was lovely. He was unlike any other guest, as he has done this for 28 years. Watching him on the show was like taking lessons in listening. He doesn’t want to read a script. Some day I want to grow up to be like him as a talk show host. One of the best guests we’ve had. He was on the lot shooting Hot in Cleveland and he just walked in. He’s a pro.

Sheryl asked if they remembered when Snookie came on and she said I think you’re very talented and Aisha said, “Which show were you watching?”

Kimberley wants to know how you manage not to talk over each other (a good question, since this is a problem I have a lot on our MOMocrats podcasts, where we don’t have visual cues from each other or a director).

Aisha: We do a lot of deferring. We don’t feel we have to get points, a point for one is a point for the team.

Sara: There’s no jockeying for position.

Sheryl said her proudest moment is when Julie, Sharon or Sara gets her jokes.

“I have to try not to laugh loud in Sara’s ear because I’m like a proud mama,” she said.

Aisha: There’s no sense of competitiveness which is why there’s no talking over each other.

Sharon: If we don’t like it, we don’t talk about it.

They were asked if their camaraderie extended when they are off the set.

Sharon: I will tell the girls stuff I won’t tell anyone else, because I trust them and I know it won’t go any further. But if we were to work and socialize continually it wouldn’t work. We all have families. We would suffocate each other. Of course we socialize at functions together. But if I said to Sara let’s go to Saks, she’d say what are you talking about?

Sharon and Sara did go on holiday together once. And Julie held a party with games.

Liz asked if they do shows about social good objectives for communities.

Sheryl remembered reporting on mammograms, which dovetailed with community service work. This may not seem like that type of show, but she thinks our lives are a reflection of the community.

“So when you talk about your experience with cancer, or Sara’s life change embracing vegetables or when Dr Oz and I had the courage to be weighed in television…

Sheryl has worked in community service. When you have a audience full of cancer survivors, that’s when the community service goes into play.

There’s been a paradigm shift in how television engages the community. (YES! THIS is fascinating and should be further explored.)

The conversation continued until about 2:00, which is like the clock striking twelve for us moms who have to drive carpool (and not just us: Aisha said Sara and she had kids attending the same school).

The show’s producers thanked us yet again for coming and taking them up on the opportunity to get to know them more intimately.

It was our pleasure.

DISCLOSURE: I was not compensated to write this post. I accepted an invitation to live tweet from the audience of The Talk and participate in the luncheon because it sounded like it would be fun — and I hope anyone reading this can tell that it was. Like everyone else in the audience, I did walk out of the studio with some parting gifts. I made no promises in exchange for the experience or the merchandise.