Last fall, Rosie O’Donnell stormed onto the set of The View like a hurricane making landfall, swelling the ratings and becoming a constant publicity machine for the show after taking over from Meredith Vieira. But storms don’t blow forever, and at the top of this morning’s edition of The View, Hurricane Rosie announced that she’s leaving the show’s panel of hosts in June. Which means Donald Trump needs to start lining up a replacement feud with Oprah, and fast.
Rosie’s brief explanation was that it was just business: “I’ve decided that we couldn’t come to terms with my deal with ABC,” she said. “They wanted me three years, and I wanted one year”–which seems plausible enough, one year being about the time it would take to put together a solo talk show, get syndication clearances and launch in fall 2008. It’s no shock; Rosie is daytime ratings gold, she has a lot of options (at one point she was reportedly in talks to spin off her Nip/Tuck character) and she’d have no reason to lock herself into three years of anything. (No replacement’s been found yet, says Walters.)
I’m sure plenty of people were parsing her co-host’s reactions. (Her conservative foil Elisabeth Hasselbeck was I’m sure just devastated, saying diplomatically, “You are such a catalyst.”) But whatever controversies Rosie has had, her leaving can’t be good for The View, and I’m sure Barbara Walters knows it. I’ve always thought there was something a little don’t-throw-me-into-the-briar-patch about Walters’ supposed discomfort with Rosie’s loose-cannon statements. (Trump, Clay Aiken / Kelly Ripa, the “ching chong” controversy, American Idol’s supposed “weightism,” etc.) Walters always meant the show to be a hot-button forum, and Rosie’s fingers danced over those buttons like a speed-typist’s.
The View has always had to balance good outrageousness with bad outrageousness (two words: Star Jones), and whoever Rosie offended, she rescued a show that had seemed to be imploding. Better that The View get attention for her mouth than for Star’s weight loss. As if acknowledging this, Rosie followed her announcement with another call for President Bush’s impeachment, for old times’ sake. Her co-hosts should enjoy it while it lasts, until Rosie takes her mouth and goes home.