Once again Rosie O'Donnell has grabbed the media's attention. On Wednesday, the comedienne announced that she is leaving the popular daytime television talk show “The View” after just one season.
“It wasn't surprising. I don't think anyone was surprised,” Vanity Fair media writer Michael Wolff said Thursday on TODAY. “Rosie's become a shock jock. She is a shock jock. And what we know about shock jocks is that they attract an enormous amount of attention and everyone holds their breath. ‘What's going to go wrong? Is the roof going to cave in?’ ”
O'Donnell, 45, announced on Wednesday's broadcast that she decided to leave “The View” as co-host when her contract expires in June. Co-host and executive producer Barbara Walters quickly added that O'Donnell's departure was not her decision or choice, but speculation runs rampant that O'Donnell is being pushed out because of her uncontrollable tongue and fallout over her nasty public feud with billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump.
“Rosie has said this is all about a contract extension dispute, that she just wanted one year and ABC wanted three. You're not buying that?” TODAY anchor Meredith Vieira, a former co-host of “The View,” asked Wolff.
“Let me put it simply: Baloney,” the media critic responded. “I think they were both forcing each other. I'm sure that ABC said to her, ‘If we are going to go on, there has to be something different here. We have to put some controls on you. We have to make you a little more predictable.’ ”
Did Rosie's antics lead to departure?
Perhaps the only predictable thing about O'Donnell is her unpredictability. As host of her own show, “The Rosie O'Donnell Show,” the former stand-up comic was known for being super nice to guests. But as co-host of “The View,” O'Donnell quickly became known for her sharp tongue and willingness to engage in controversy, including the famous flap with Trump that made front-page tabloid headlines for weeks. She made fun of his infamous comb-over and questioned the roots and depth of his success. He responded, in a nutshell, that she is fat and a failure.
The feud helped ratings soar at “The View,” as viewers tuned in to hear what was going to come out of O'Donnell's mouth next.
“Why would they want something different?” Vieira asked. “The ratings have been terrific this past year. She's brought a lot of attention to the show.”
The problem isn't ratings, Wolff opined. He said network executives by their very nature are skittish, and they worry about the damage public controversies can do to an asset like “The View” long term.
“That's the issue with shock jocks,” Wolff said, adding that O'Donnell may be another victim of fallout from the controversy surrounding radio host Don Imus. “Great ratings, but you never know what's going to happen.”
Like Imus, who many believe will surface again somewhere, O'Donnell's career probably isn't over.
“I think she has infinite potential and clearly we will see her back very soon,” Wolff said.
Vieira, who appeared on “The View” for nine years before joining TODAY, said she believes the program will continue to do well, with or without O'Donnell.
“The people on that show, beyond Rosie, are phenomenal,” said Vieira. “Behind the scenes, in front of the scenes, I think they'll do OK.”