Is anyone surprised that Rosie O'Donnell won’t be coming back to "The View"? Ever since she and cohost Elisabeth Hasselbeck shouted each other down on Wednesday's show like guests on "Jerry Springer," O’Donnell has been suggesting on her blog that she’s done with the show. (Rosie’s last day, officially, was supposed to be June 21.) Today, before ABC announced Rosie wouldn’t return, she posted a video that showed ripped-up photographs of her, Barbara Walters and Hasslebeck. If Barbara Walters fumed when Star Jones gave an interview to People magazine saying Barbara fired her, imagine how she felt about Rosie’s public displays of disaffection. In fact, Walters told NEWSWEEK last fall that she hoped Rosie wouldn’t use her blog to bash the other women on the show. The title of Rosie’s latest video? “True Colors.”
The trouble on “The View” started this week, when the girls were talking about their big date with Emmy. Rosie said that the award belonged to Barbara, for being smart enough to hire her. Cohost Joy Behar said maybe they hadn’t gotten the award yet because Emmy voters just didn’t like someone else on the show (a.k.a. Star Jones), suggesting the as-yet-unwon Emmy might not be about Rosie at all. That comment, Rosie later revealed on her blog, hurt her. But Rosie was even more wounded by Elisabeth. Rosie complained that Fox News had been running a report that said she was calling our troops terrorists. Rather than defend her, Elisabeth tried to explain how Fox might have reached that conclusion. (O’Donnell is in fact an outspoken critic of the war and has lately been positing various 9/11 conspiracy theories that implicate the U.S. government.) Later that day, Rosie posted questions from readers that said Elisabeth wasn’t a true friend. On Wednesday, the fireworks finally went off, with Barbara—lucky for her—not on hand to moderate. Said Rosie: “Here’s how it gets spun in the media: ‘Rosie, big fat lesbian loud Rosie, attacks innocent pure Christian Elisabeth'.”
Upon her return Thursday, Walters announced: "Aunt Barbara is back and there will be peace in the kingdom." But the catfight got nastier. While Rosie defended herself on her blog, Elisabeth went on a media tour, giving interviews about how she felt after the fight. Geraldo Rivera even expressed concern for the health of Elisabeth’s unborn child. Rosie was originally just supposed to take Thursday off. But, then, someone reportedly drew moustaches on some of Elisabeth’s studio portraits later in the week. (The New York Post pointed the finger to Janette Barber, the show’s head writer, who works for Rosie). Late Friday, ABC released a touchy-feely statement saying that Rosie was gone.
So what really happened? Was Rosie fired with only three weeks left on her contract, or did she quit? The show’s producers edited Wednesday’s yelling match (which is broadcast live) like a trashy talk show—giving both Elisabeth and Rosie the split-screen treatment. Rosie sarcastically blogged “imagine my surprise” later that day. Despite all the bad blood—scratch that, because of it—the show’s ratings are at a 10-year high, and they certainly would have surged following the fight. Surely ABC didn’t want to miss out on that windfall. Further complicating matters: “The View” is a safe bet to take home its first-ever Emmy in the category of best daytime talk show host on June 14. Rosie had already mentioned on Monday’s show that she wasn’t going to attend, because of a school event for one of her children. Now when the other women take the stage, the entire TV world will probably think they’ve stolen the award from her.
The loser in this big fight, though, will be ABC. They’ve fired other cohosts of “The View” before (Debbie Matenopoulos, Star Jones), but neither of them had the same rabid following as Rosie. While many people hate Rosie (enough already, Donald Trump), she has tremendously loyal fans. Her decision to bail will likely cost the show viewers when it resumes next week.
So what will Rosie do for an encore? She’ll announce her next act soon, or so she’s hinted on her blog. We rank the choices:
(1) Late night. Rosie has said that she’s interested in a night-time talk show. But CBS, NBC and ABC all have their top hosts under contract for a few more seasons—and frankly, even late night doesn’t seem ready for Rosie. Besides, her fan base is the soccer moms who stay at home to watch her in the morning—some of whom fall asleep by 9 p.m. A better bet for her is a path similar to Bill Maher (who, perhaps not coincidentally, popped up as an image in the video she posted today). He followed “Politically Incorrect” with a talk show on HBO, a canvas that would let Rosie be as foul-mouthed and political as she wants.
Odds that she does it: Three koosh balls.
(2) Acting. Rosie is returning to “Nip/Tuck” next season in a guest spot, as an overweight millionaire who pays Julian McMahon for sex. Maybe she’ll get a spinoff. Once upon a time, the comedian was an actress—in movies like “A League of Her Own” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” But we already know that Rosie isn’t very good at following someone else’s script.
Odds: Two koosh balls.
(3) Rosie has long said that she wanted to be the host of “The Price is Right”—she even took out an ad in the Los Angeles Times congratulating Bob Barker on his retirement. CBS didn’t bite. But she had some good ideas for the show, like changing some of Barker’s Beauties to men, which would appeal to the series’ largely female audience. Another network could step in with another game show pitch to O'Donnell. She certainly loves giving things away.
Odds: One koosh ball.
(4) More daytime. For the last month or so, Rosie has been posting an 11-minute minishow with her hairdresser and barber that’s actually better than "The View"—more outspoken, more personal. Rosie doesn’t even wear makeup. Rosie has also expressed interest—she has a lot of interests, doesn’t she?—in another network talk show. But instead of a cast of regular cohosts, she’d bring on weekly guest hosts to talk about political issues. The formula seems like it could work splendidly—especially if another network aired it against "The View."
Odds: Four koosh balls.