TV Review

ABC's 'View' Is Looking A Whole Lot Rosier

Rosie O'Donnell, left, outshone her
Rosie O'Donnell, left, outshone her "View" co-hosts Barbara Walters, Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck on her debut on the daytime talk show. (By Steve Fenn -- Abc Via Getty Images)

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By Darragh Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 6, 2006

Rosie O'Donnell is giving daytime talk TV a whole new view. Or, in this case, an entirely new "View."

O'Donnell debuted on the ABC morning chat show yesterday, and if there was any question which Rosie would show up -- the "Queen of Nice" whose old talk show ran counter to the cruder "Jerry Springer"-type programming, or the opinionated, polarizing figure who emerged after her show ended in 2002 -- viewers didn't have to wait long for an answer.

Barbara Walters, in her bright-red power suit, might have taken O'Donnell's arm and led her across the studio to her place at the table. But once all four co-hosts were seated -- and the studio audience's standing ovation and cheers finally quieted down -- the sassy, electrifying, show-stealing Rosie took over.

O'Donnell was funny and unpredictable and charismatic. And her facial expressions -- the stop-you-dead smile, the giddy eyebrow waggles, the self-deprecating and manic eye-blinking -- were so varied that she herself seemed to be playing several co-hosts. Although her chubbiness has often relegated her to being the "funny sidekick" in film and onstage, she glowed with leading-role glamour.

Inviting O'Donnell to co-host "The View" was like buying an expensive, Corian counter that makes everything else in the kitchen seem drab or shabby or in need of an overhaul. (Rosie replaced longtime host Meredith Vieira, and her hiring sparked speculation about the job security of Star Jones Reynolds, who was dropped from the show in June.)

As if showing her age, Walters often appeared to be a step or three behind the newly quickened flow of the Rosie Show. Comedian Joy Behar found herself acting as O'Donnell's straight-man. And the squeaky-voiced Elisabeth Hasselbeck was so overeager that even the morning's guest, the precariously high-heeled Jessica Simpson, seemed by comparison to comport herself like a well-educated graduate of Miss Porter's School for Girls.

Some of Simpson's sheen might have come from the fact that O'Donnell -- who immediately established herself as the Alpha Gal whose approval and attention matters most -- was treating her like an equal.

"And you're dating John Mayer!" O'Donnell crowed, immediately asking the question that Simpson didn't want to answer.

"She just goes right there," Simpson said, looking taken aback and stalling, before answering: "I am actually not dating John Mayer."

O'Donnell kept it up. "You're not? That's shocking. You mean People magazine was wrong ?"

Simpson, taking a breath: "He's my friend."

One of the few times O'Donnell even mentioned the name of co-host Hasselbeck -- the show's token conservative who nearly came to blows with Behar recently over a morning-after pill debate-- was after Behar began a good-natured round of teasing O'Donnell.

O'Donnell, who is gay and liberal and had already promised a future discussion of same-sex marriage, looked at the camera and deadpanned, "You all thought I was going to have problems with Elisabeth."

Walters spoke up fast: "Trust me, you will."

The only thing about O'Donnell that didn't spark was her attire -- a dull, head-to-toe black, as though she were attending a casual funeral. And to judge from some postings on her blog -- -- she might have worried that she was:

"i saw the new view promos," she wrote Aug. 14, "and found myself in the position / i loathe most / powerless // it will be hard 4 me / 2 not b / the boss / it is already / and we have only just begun"

On "The View's" Web site, Walters is listed as the show's "co-owner, co-executive producer and co-host." In effect, the show's boss.

But O'Donnell is "The View's" new star -- and steering the show as if she's already in charge.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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