Air Talent Gone Wild: Crazy Week in TV Finally Ends

Jon Stewart said he’s leaving, Rosie said good-bye, and Brian Williams said nothing.

And that was the week that was.

It was more TV news crammed into a seven-day period than we’d seen in a long time. The final act came on Thursday with Rosie O’Donnell’s farewell from “The View.” This goodbye took all of 46 seconds for Rosie to deliver on Thursday’s show.

Coming after months of reports of strife and tumult behind the scenes at “The View” -- almost all of it blamed on Rosie herself -- her farewell address was anticlimactic, to say the least.



She thanked the cast and crew of “The View,” singled out Barbara Walters for special praise, and even claimed the two had had lunch together just the day before.

For various reasons, this “speech” has to rank as one of the most insincere public statements ever aired. When Rosie vowed that she would return as a guest from time to time, it made you wonder why on earth she would ever be invited. 

In fact, this sudden exit, which Rosie “announced” last Friday without apparently having the courtesy to tell her co-hosts before going public with it, has never really been fully explained. She cited health issues stemming from an ongoing battle with heart problems, which seems reasonable enough.

But it’s also reasonable to conclude that other factors were just as important. She was reportedly deeply dissatisfied with aspects of the show’s production and, as a result, the people who worked with her were probably worn out by her sour attitude. And since her presence on the show wasn’t doing anything to goose the ratings, she may have been asked, or at least encouraged, to leave.

And if this exit really was solely her idea, then I’m sure no one lifted so much as a pinky to try and persuade her stay. Plus, I have wondered all along: Are you really allowed to just up and walk out on a job like this? Isn’t she under contract? Perhaps leaving for a health reason is something her contract permits her to do. So she did it.

Meanwhile, Jon Stewart’s announcement that he’ll call it a day later this year came as a complete surprise too. While no one seemed to particularly care that Rosie O’Donnell would no longer be seen on “The View,” the reaction to Stewart’s announcement was positively mournful. It’s no mystery why that was: He’s a very popular, very likable TV personality.

He’s a very shrewd, very smart entertainer who has surrounded himself with a large and very distinguished team of TV comedy writers and producers to produce a show that gets talked about day after day after day. He deserves every plaudit you can throw at him.

His exit from “The Daily Show” obviously means he will no longer be a frequent presence on TV (unless he’s lining up something else that he’s not prepared to talk about yet). If that’s the case, then his exit is a big loss.

Whatever he does next, Jon Stewart’s last “Daily Show” figures to be one of the most talked-about events on TV this year -- right up there with Letterman’s farewell in May and Stephen Colbert’s debut next fall.

As for Brian Williams, we haven’t seen hide nor hair of him since the week before this one, when his on-air apology for making up a story about riding in a helicopter when it was attacked in Iraq triggered a crisis for NBC News and for him.

This week, NBC Universal’s top executives decided to suspend him for six months without pay, amid widespread speculation that they’ll use those six months to go and find someone else to replace him permanently.

It’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which Williams comes back in six months and somehow reestablishes himself as a trusted network news anchor -- either internally at NBC News or externally with the general public.

Of the three TV personalities in the news this week, Jon Stewart is the one with the most options. He will be deluged with offers. And if he chooses to do nothing, he is presumably wealthy enough to make that choice too.

While Rosie O’Donnell’s appeal remains a mystery -- at least to me -- she will get work too. For some reason, people are willing to pay to see her. Good luck to her.

For Williams, however, where his career is concerned, the future looks bleak. He may have actually destroyed it, although some who have destroyed their careers have nevertheless found their way back, even when that seemed impossible. Whatever he winds up doing, Williams’ future might not be the one he planned for. But whatever it is, I wish him luck too.

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