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Rosie O’Donnell returned to ‘The View.’ That’s a big deal…why?

Barbara Walters and Rosie O’Donnell <br/> (Lou Rocco/ABC)

Rosie O’Donnell paid a very highly-hyped visit to “The View” on Friday morning. Why is that a big deal?

For those with short memory spans regarding daytime talk show drama, this is the first time that O’Donnell appeared on “The View” since her infamously controversial year co-hosting stint during the 2006-2007 season. Though everyone promised there was no bad blood between O’Donnell, ABC or executive producer Barbara Walters, it still took seven years for O’Donnell to go anywhere near the show.

Though this time, she’s got something to promote — with an ABC tie-in. O’Donnell is currently guest-starring on ABC Family’s “The Fosters,” so naturally, it seemed like the perfect time to come back.

It wound up being a perfectly low-key appearance with only a few references of past problems, but Walters keyed up the audience on Friday’s show before O’Donnell took the stage along with Sherri Shepherd, Whoopi Goldberg and Jenny McCarthy: “We had some good times. We had some bad times. But they were never boring,” Walters said before the daily “Hot Topics” segment. “Please welcome back Rosie O’Donnell!”

For those who need a refresher: O’Donnell had an extremely fiery year on “The View” when she served as moderator on the daytime chat fest with Walters, Shepherd, Joy Behar and Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Her most famous flare-ups included the epic feud with Donald Trump, whom she criticized over his handling of revelations that Miss USA Tara Conner was going to rehab. O’Donnell also let loose at Simon Cowell and “American Idol” for airing a terrible audition that featured a young man who had participated in the Special Olympics. The list goes on.

Anyway, O’Donnell announced in April 2007 that she wouldn’t be returning to “The View” because ABC wanted her to sign a three-year contract, and she only wanted to commit to one more year.  Then, things exploded again in late May when she got into a spectacular fight on-camera with her frequent opponent, the conservative Hasselbeck, over the Iraq War:

Though she had a few weeks left on her contract, that wound up being the last time O’Donnell appeared on the show. (Apparently, she was really mad about that split screen.) A few days later, Walters revealed on the show that O’Donnell wouldn’t be coming back at all.

“This makes us very sad. Rosie and I have been e-mailing each other all weekend with the most affectionate notes because we are very close friends,” Walters said at the time. “I’d like to make it very clear that Rosie was never fired and there is no desire to have her leave the show. We wanted to have her stay.”

Back to Friday’s show: How did O’Donnell feel being back?

“It feels kind of weird,” O’Donnell said. “But good weird.”

She barely referenced her past issues on “The View,” though she did jokingly ask, “Is Hasselbeck here? Just checking.” (Hasselbeck, if you recall, left last year for Fox News Channel.)

O’Donnell talked about her kids, her wife, past health scares, and chimed in on a variety of “Hot Topics,” including Dylan Farrow’s letter that said she was abused by father Woody Allen (“I totally believe her,” O’Donnell said); Justin Bieber’s antics (O’Donnell thinks he’s just a troubled kid who needs help); and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s death (she emphasized that addiction is a disease).

“How did I do on this one?” O’Donnell asked after talking about Allen and defending her close friend, Mia Farrow, while Walters jumped in to call Allen a good father. “I could have said something even worse but I was editing. It’s my first time back, I’m afraid I’ll be exiled.”

No need to worry – producers know what gets buzz and ratings. By the end of the hour, the women were asking O’Donnell to come back again.