If it's true -- and by the time you read this we might have a definitive acknowledgement from ABC -- the news that Rosie O'Donnell is (or very likely will be) returning to “The View,” the show on which she frequently became quite agitated back in 2007-08 before departing amid memorably explosive circumstances, suggests that ABC Daytime may still be mired in the type of questionable decision making that egregiously compromised the network's once robust daypart.
In other words, if ABC is even considering recruiting O’Donnell, it shouldn't.
O’Donnell was simply sensational as the host of her own feel-good syndicated daytime talk show in the Nineties, at least until the horrors of the Columbine Massacre in April 1999, which led to her becoming more emotional and more political on her otherwise delightful and entertaining program. (Her nasty dust-up over gun control one month after the Columbine High School massacre with guest Tom Selleck remains somewhat legendary.) She has always been a fine actress in movies and on television shows (most recently ABC Family’s “The Fosters”). She is a great guest on other talk shows (even “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News).
But her time on “The View” made clear that she doesn’t play well with others in a multiple host, hot-topic heavy talk show format in which even a single colleague (not to mention the occasional guest) might not always agree with her particular points of view. She loses her cool and creates an atmosphere of extreme tension rather than one in which differing points of view are informatively debated in ways that stimulate and educate others.
If nothing else, it makes for a very undesirable viewing experience.
Of course, former “View” co-hosts Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck shared many of these same unfortunate qualities, but they always seemed to coexist and find common ground to return to even after their discussions became heated. Watching at home, there was rarely any lingering stress or distaste when the two of them went at it, generally over politics. O’Donnell, on the other hand, left a dense cloud of unpleasantness hanging over the show whenever she got into a disagreement with anybody.
O’Donnell famously left “The View” after an epic blowout with Hasselbeck in May 2007. If memory serves, at the time she insisted that she didn’t leave because of the actual argument, but because someone at the show (a producer? A director? A network executive?) chose to make the fight look more like a catfight by showcasing it via split screen (with O’Donnell on the left and Hasselbeck on the right). In her defense, it was a shameful technical decision on the part of whomever was responsible -- one clearly made to further exploit the emotion of the moment. If O’Donnell is willing to return to the show, it must mean that those hurt feelings have subsided.
Maybe O’Donnell has changed or matured or calmed down a bit. But I should think she would want to leave her experience on “The View” far behind her, as she attempted to do with her perfectly fine and unfortunately short-lived talk show on OWN a few years ago. If she really wants to return to “The View,” that’s all well and good, I suppose -- but it will only take one flammable exchange with a single colleague or guest to revive all of the negative press that surrounded her seven years ago.
Some people insist that there is no such thing as “bad” publicity, but in this case I disagree. Any renewed issues with O’Donnell will only hurt “The View,” which at present is old and weak and tired despite the best efforts of its sole remaining host, the indefatigable (and at this juncture, invaluable) Whoopi Goldberg -- who has been the only real reason to watch the show for longer than I can remember.
The greater issue here is that in its efforts to revive whatever is left of “The View” (and after a year with Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy as co-hosts, it ain’t much), it appears that ABC is returning to its past rather than moving forward. Surely there are plenty of well-informed, intelligent and engaging women working in the media who would bring something special to the show -- women who might recall the better hosts of “The View” during its early years, including Behar, Hasselbeck, Meredith Vieira, Lisa Ling and even Star Jones (before her wedding). Some of the many impressive newswomen who visited “The View” in May to bid Barbara Walters adieu might be available. Surely there is another way to go with this rather than repeating past mistakes.
I certainly hope “The View” stops trying to be “The Talk,” as seemed to be the case this year. “The Talk” offers a perfectly pleasant hour on CBS every afternoon, but it works precisely because it is lighter than air and tries never to be anything but a happy, upbeat experience (very much like ABC’s “Live with Kelly and Michael” and NBC’s fourth hour of “Today” with Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb in the morning, not to mention O’Donnell’s original talk show, at least at the start).
“The View” was always strongest when it drilled down into important topics and interviews with guests who had something substantive to talk about. A daily show of that kind being produced in New York City should have no problem finding smart hosts and engaging guests. But first it has to return to the rails from which it careened during the last year.