Rosie O’Donnell’s announcement that she’ll be leaving The View in June isn’t exactly unexpected — her one-year contract was coming up for renegotiation, and you just know that View co-inventor Barbara Walters must have been feeling highly ambivalent about continuing the Rosie Era of The View. Yes, O’Donnell has almost certainly been responsible for the surge the show’s ratings have enjoyed over the past few months, but everything from her feud with Donald Trump to her criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of the Iraq war to her 9/11 ramblings on her blog have made her a polarizing figure. While Walters took pains to say on the air this morning that she had no part in Rosie’s negotiating proceeds — that ABC Daytime dealt with Rosie and her agents — I’m betting that Walters’ increasingly apparent discomfort with O’Donnell’s outspokenness must have figured into the ABC Daytime corporate executives’ offers and counter-offers. Rosie said this morning on the air that she wanted a one-year contract, but that ABC wanted a longer commitment; she said she’d be back to do some “guest-hosting.”
Okay, that’s as close as I’m going to get to objective reporting on this. Now, then: Nooooo! Don’t leave, Rosie!
It’s been such a TV gift to have someone on daytime television who gets as worked up about the Patriot Act as she does about Dancing With the Stars. And don’t start peppering me with oh-you-left-wing-media-types e-mails — I’m saying, how terrific it has been that Rosie has raised issues about government and social policy-making, put them out on the View table, and compelled her cohosts Walters, Joy Behar, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck to articulate their frequently opposing points of view. It’s been fascinating to hear when the audience applauded Rosie’s sentiments, or when they cheered Elisabeth’s counter-arguments, or when they maintained a stony silence of disapproval. All this, on a show that could be just as enthusiastic when one of its hosts chirped, “Next up, Donny Osmond!”
I expressed some of these thoughts in my recent TV review of The View in the magazine. But now that Rosie has announced her plans to leave, two things occur to me…
1. Will Rosie launch her own show? She’s not talking — her publicisttold me she’s declining interviews for now — and maybe I’m being naïve,but I doubt she wants to get back into the daily grind of solo daytimetalking, no matter how popular she’s become once again. She reallybenefited from The View’s mix of “Hot Topics” andentertainment. (I’ll hazard one theory: CNN must be thinking today,“Well, if Larry King wants to retire a little early, we know who couldinterview both Barack Obama and Mickey Rooney…”)
2. Boy, are things going to be popping on The View through June — talk about your must-see TV. I mean, put politics aside: They’ve managed to book Alec Baldwinthis Friday! Or rather, put politics in the mix — that’s the greatthing about Rosie: She revitalized the old slogan “The personal ispolitical.” Even showbiz stars’ problems inevitably raise seriousissues of responsibility.