Comb-overs And Comedians--What's Not To like?

Watching Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump fight last week was a reminder, as Woody Allen once said, that no matter how cynical you are, it's never enough to keep up.

Not to question their sincerity (Trump called O'Donnell disgusting and fat; she called him a snake oil salesman and bankrupt), but they're also playing media outlets like substitute teachers, so forgive me for thinking both are enjoying this.

Even before the controversy, Nielsen Media Research reported "The View" was up 3.3-million viewers since O'Donnell replaced Star Jones, a 15% increase, making it the fourth highest-rated daytime show. Its numbers will do the merengue for a few weeks as new viewers anxiously tune in for O'Donnell's next Dan Rather-like "Kenneth, what's the frequency?" moment.

For Trump, "The Apprentice" was having a midlife crisis, so this couldn't have come at a better time. According to MediaVest USA, the show drew 12.8 million viewers for its 2005 finale--six million fewer than the previous year. And while Trump maintains the decline was due to the taint of the Martha Stewart spin-off, the show also lost 41% of its regular season 18-to-49-year-old audience from the year before. ("The View's" 18-49 numbers, by comparison, are higher than they've ever been.)



So even if Trump didn't orchestrate the Miss USA hiccup, as O'Donnell intimates, and even if "The Apprentice" is once again strong, as he suggests, kibitzing with Larry King for an hour isn't the worst way to promote the upcoming season.

The grown-up here is Barbara Walters, the producer/boss/hall monitor on "The View," who has said that while she welcomes strong opinions on the show, she doesn't "want us to be bashing anybody... and Rosie is very conscious of it."

Walters respects O'Donnell; she socializes with Trump.

My guess is that Walters will continue to publicly support O'Donnell but privately tell her to stop annoying her dinner guests. For his part, Trump will drop his lawsuits and appear more regularly on "Live with Regis and Kelly."

In the battle between love and ratings, everyone can win here--unless O'Donnell decides the Vegas Strip and HBO are more conducive to her rants about comb-overs and lecherous old men than network television.

In which case, want to bet who "The View"'s first guest will be?

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