Kristen Baldwin
June 28, 1996 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Rave reviews? So what. The highest-rated daytime talk-show premiere this decade? Who cares. Beating Oprah in some markets? Pshaw! The real proof that The Rosie O’Donnell Show is in the zone? It’s got Merv Griffin’s Seal of Approval.

The man of 1,000 oohs, Griffin, 70, is O’Donnell’s admitted talk-show idol. So it’s especially sweet that the Wheel of Fortune impresario (he’s developing a new game show) and Atlantic City casino owner has given her a thumbs-up. ”Rosie was born to do a talk show,” says Griffin, telephoning from his yacht anchored off the coast of Spain. ”She has that Irish spontaneity, added with a touch of New York that’ll knock you for a loop.”

High praise from the man whose show, along with those of fellow gurus Mike Douglas and Virginia Graham, is the spiritual grandparent of O’Donnell’s program. Griffin attributes Rosie‘s bloom to the show’s avoidance of trash talk. ”That’s all over with, that ‘Lithuanian Proctologists Who Want to Be Nuns,”’ says Griffin. And just in case TV’s hottest new hostess is overwhelmed by the pressures of daily chitchat, Griffin graciously offers this reprieve: ”Tell Rosie she’s booked for the yacht any time she wants.”

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