After 17 seasons and the recent departure of founding matriarch Barbara Walters, why do we still care about "The View"? Maybe because the drama never ends, even when the cameras stop rolling. Case in point: the long-rumored re-hiring of former "View" panelist Rosie O'Donnell –- confirmed Thursday in a tweet –- which not only will do nothing to calm the troubled waters at the daytime talk show, but in fact seems meant to stir up even more drama.
O'Donnell, of course, was at the center of the notoriously turbulent 2006-07 season, one highlighted by the former Queen of Nice's many verbal battles with ideological opposite Elisabeth Hasselbeck. After one particularly bitter political argument, O'Donnell stormed off, never to return, having asked to be let out of her contract early. It was a season that was painful to watch but also undeniably exciting, in an imminent-train-wreck way. Seven years later, you'd think no one at the show would want to return to such hostile working conditions, but then again, all the controversy got people watching, didn't it?
Rumors of O'Donnell's return surfaced earlier this week, though Hasselbeck (now a panelist on "Fox and Friends") muttered that the deal must have been in the works for months, given the surprisingly warm welcome O'Donnell received for her unxpected appearance on Walters' farewell show in May. She also warned that a returning O'Donnell would try to take over the show and, for good measure, accused O'Donnell of "spit[ting] in the face of our military" years ago on "The View."
Fellow former "View" co-host Joy Behar (during an interview with CNN's Don Lemon) shot back at Hasselbeck for her unkind words, calling her remarks about O'Donnell "nasty" and "below the belt." O'Donnell, via Twitter, also responded with a couple of mild digs at Hasselbeck for her alleged hypocrisy, tweeting that she roped O'Donnell into posing with her for a selfie at the "View" reunion show and hinting that it's Hasselbeck, not herself, who doesn't support the troops.
Still, Hasselbeck appears to have been correct about one thing. According to People, a deal for O'Donnell's return has been in negotiations for six months..
By the way, notice how the "View" co-hosts keep arguing with each other long after they've left the show? That's not just drama, that's publicity you can't buy.
Certainly, everyone knew that drastic changes were in store for "The View." Not only did 84-year-old Walters step down from the series she created 17 years ago, but the show also announced the departures of co-hosts Sherri Shepherd and Jenny McCarthy, leaving moderator Whoopi Goldberg the last woman seated when the music stopped playing. The mass exodus was a shocker for viewers and panelists alike; McCarthy suggested this week that she had expected to be co-hosting "The View" for another 20 years.
The near-complete housecleaning may even extend to Bill Geddie, the longtime Walters colleague who has produced the show since it launched. According to the New York Daily News, there's no love lost between him and O'Donnell, who blames him for exacerbating the argument that made her flee the show. (Geddie was reportedly goading Hasselbeck through her earpiece.) A New York Post report about O'Donnell's return suggested that one of her perks would be authority over hiring and firing of other panelsts. (One supposed O'Donnell rule: no reality stars – perhaps another dig at former "Survivor" contestant Hasselbeck.) No word if such authority also meant she could pick her own producer, but if she can, it seems unlikely that she'd pick Geddie – or that he'd want to stay under an O'Donnell regime. For now, ABC is denying that Geddie is leaving, while O'Donnell's team tells the Daily News that if he does leave, she had "zero" to do with it.
Other casting rumors have Meghan McCain about to sign, perhaps to take over the blonde-Republican seat once filled by Hasselbeck. The outspoken daughter of former presidential candidate John McCain, Meghan might actually get along with O'Donnell, since she has more liberal views on social issues (notably, gay marriage) than her father and many other Republicans do. In any case, McCain is getting a trial run next week when she guest-hosts.
Speaking of John McCain, Sarah Palin has nominated herself to be a "View" panelist, though there's no hint that anyone at ABC is seriously considering Sen. McCain's former running mate. One would imagine, however, that Palin and Meghan McCain wouldn't get along too well. Also, if the Post's report is correct, O'Donnell's edict against reality stars joining the panel would mean an automatic thumbs-down on Palin.
On Thursday's episode, taped shortly before ABC confirmed O'Donnell's return, Goldberg tried to calm the waters. Addressing the hosting rumors, she said that, whoever is hired, "we will do our best to bring you the 'View' that Barbara Walters wanted you to have, which is women talking about issues. We are not little kids. We are grown-ass women." She added, " I don't argue with people; we have spirited discussions," Whoopi went on to say. "I don't fight with people. It's not my way. Quit trying to make me into something I'm not. I'm not a little girl with cat claws. I'm not a cat. I'm a girl with a fist, okay? Quit trying to make something happen and let whatever's going to happen happen."
Yeah, right. Maybe Goldberg thinks people watch "The View" to see grown women having spirited discussions, but it seems that the show's own overseers want something more akin to pie fights or pro wrestling. The Daily News quotes a source close to the deal as saying, "During Rosie's time on 'The View,' the ratings were [huge], and her interaction with Elisabeth and Joy was unstoppable. We're approaching an election season, and after that if things combust, that's fine, is the thinking right now. Rosie's the best way to draw heat."
Photo courtesy AP Photo/ABC, Lou Rocco