Two of the biggest names in daytime talk will be allying as Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network announced it has signed Rosie O’Donnell to host a talk show, to begin at some point after the channel’s launch in January. It’s an attention-getting deal, but one that you could interpret a few ways: a coup for Oprah, a step back for Rosie or a strategic compromise for both.
On the one hand, the move solves Oprah’s problem of wanting a big name—other than her own—to host a daily show to anchor her new network. O’Donnell may be polarizing, but she has a history of drawing an audience; she ran a hit talk show from 1996 to 2002, and while her year as View co-host was stormy, it was a big ratings boost for the panel. On the other hand, while this allows Rosie to get back in the talk-show business with a high-profile launch, she originally had a higher-profile goal: shopping a syndicated talk show to take over Oprah’s time slots. While her representatives claimed progress, one has to guess that she would have continued to go the syndicated route if she were close to nailing it down.
The question now is what kind of show Rosie will deliver. She’s become politically outspoken in recent years—see her tenure on The View—but her daytime show was largely entertainment-oriented, and she’s since dabbled in projects like trying to return the live variety show to TV. OWN says her upcoming show will be “a fun, uplifting show with Ms. O’Donnell’s playful and energetic style”—which granted, could mean anything, but suggests the latter, less pugnacious approach.
But we’ll see. As Rosie O’Donnell has shown before, any plans of hers are subject to change.