Sometimes when you’re shopping for something, it’s helpful to rule out what you don’t want. Especially when you’re not quite sure what it is you do want. And speaking as a semi-regular viewer of ABC’s “The View” — admittedly, I never had much use for the show until the outspoken, volume-intensive Rosie O’Donnell joined the cast last year — I can say exactly what I don’t want as the show shops around for someone to fill Rosie’s shoes: Star Parker.
The firebrand born-again activist and author of right-wing tomes like “Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How the Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What We Can Do About It” sat in the Rosie seat for a few days recently, proving herself to be one the most irritating, interrupting, Bible-bullying guest hosts the show has ever seen. Parker went down as smoothly as thumbtacks in a bowl of Cheerios, so I’m hoping that host and boss-lady Barbara Walters won’t be inviting her back. (You’d think after Barbara’s well-publicized difficulty with Star Jones, any woman named for an astronomical entity would be barred from the program.)
But with no burning ball of gas waiting in the wings, who will take over for the much-missed Rosie? Who will trade quips with Joy Behar and make the veins stand out in the neck of neo-con mommy Elisabeth Hasselbeck (known among bloggers as The Hasselbot)? We haven’t seen this many show business women hungrily circling a job since David O. Selznick was casting “Gone with the Wind.” If Walters and company are smart they’ll think about type first, name second. It might make the bloody process a little less painful.
Smooth like pudding: You have to wonder if, when Rosie was originally hired, “The View” producers thought they’d be getting the huggable Koosh-balls-and-Broadway Rosie and not the outspoken lesbian-politics-and-Broadway Rosie they got. And while Rosie’s bluntness boosted the show’s ratings, she also caused no shortage of agita behind the scenes. So maybe they’ll want a new host to be sweet, gentle, and soft as an easy chair. Gayle King’s the leader of that pack, but don’t count out the once-controversial Whoopi Goldberg, who’s been nice as pie on her recent “View” appearances. Cons: If Battlin’ Rosie was a viewer magnet, people aren’t necessarily going to tune in for a genteel ladies’ tea party. Wild card: Supermodel smarty-turned-writer Veronica Webb, a class act and gorgeous to boot.
Women who will make Elisabeth long for the cold embrace of Rosie: You thought Rosie could raise hackles with her political jibes about the president and the war and the gay-rights movement? Try bringing in Janeane Garofalo. Or Air America’s Rachel Maddow. Or Camille Paglia. Or Margaret Cho. Or even giving a permanent slot to occasional guest host Kathy Griffin. As Rosie proved, another funny lady on the panel puts Joy on her A-game. Cons: Barbara would prefer to keep her migraines to a minimum this year, thank you. Wild card: Is Joan Didion available to do TV?
Vintage vixens: Why should the 76-year-old Barbara and the 63-year-old Joy be the only AARP members on the stage? There’s no shortage of smart and sexy women of a certain age who could keep the conversations lively. Did you catch Jane Fonda (69) hilariously holding her own on “The Colbert Report”? Have you heard Cher (61) calling C-SPAN to knowledgeably speak about conditions at V.A. hospitals? I’d tune in every day if I knew I’d get to hear the melodiously assured voice of Blythe Danner (64). Cons: Advertisers assume you cease to exist once you pass 50. Wild card: Former Secretary of State Madeline Albright (70) had a great “Gilmore Girls” cameo — can they get her?
Male girlfriends: I thought I was being clever when I originally came up with this category, but real life has caught up with me — “The View” producers are talking about “Sex and the City” star Mario Cantone as a potential new panelist. He’s a chatty one, but if you caught his one-man show on cable, you know that a little Mario goes a long way.
And while we’re on the subject, thumbs down on Ross the Intern, Steven Cojocaru, and any of the “Queer Eye” guys. They’ve all been given ample airtime with which to bore us.
Why not get acerbic author-commentator David Sedaris instead? And during the months he lives in Paris, his anything-goes sister Amy could fill in. Perhaps former “Daily Show” gay Frank DeCaro could make his triumphant return to TV? Or chat show veteran Isaac Mizrahi? Or perhaps actor Alec Mapa or author Augusten Burroughs, both skilled at getting laughs without being eunuch clowns. Cons: Would a Y chromosome, even attached to a gay guy, violate the spirit of the show? And do gay men need to be further de-sexed in popular culture? Wild card: Anti-Bush conservative Andrew Sullivan would definitely ruffle a feather or two. Or nine.
Without a net: Throw all gentility out the window and hire someone who will knock the show on its ear, kick it in the gut, and then pour it a drink. Courtney Love is available. Or maybe former Go-Go Jane Wiedlin, who boldly bared her kinky side on “The Surreal Life.” Lesbian sexpert columnist Susie Bright, take-no-prisoners comic Sarah Silverman … there’s no shortage of fierce troublemakers for the gig. Cons: Network TV, especially morning TV, just isn’t ready. And it may never be. Wild card: Can a talented medium contact the ghost of Molly Ivins?
The bottom-line dilemma faced by “The View” crew is that, short of cloning Oprah or offering Paris Hilton live via satellite from the pokey, there’s no Rosie-sized guaranteed ratings juggernaut sitting around waiting to be asked. She was a singular presence, no matter how post-nice she got. So attention to quality and a commitment to creating a new type of chemistry — and not numbers-chasing — will need to rule the day, no matter who winds up filling the seat. But one last thing, just to be clear: No Star Parker. Really.
Alonso Duralde is the author of “101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men” (Alyson Books). Find him at .