Monday, March 12, 2007

It’s called show business, not show friends

O’Donnell reportedly demands ABC fire Walters’ longtime producer

It looks like Donald Trump’s prediction that Barbara Walters would regret hiring Rose O’Donnell may yet be proven true.

There is a report that O’Donnell is willing to extend her contract with “The View” for one year, after which ABC will give her a talk show of her own. But there is a high price for O’Donnell’s signature: ABC must dump “The View” producer and co-creator, Bill Geddie (aka “The Viewmaster”). From TMZ.com:

Page Six says that Ro will re-up for another year at ABC when her contract ends this summer, mainly because it’s too late to start her own show this September. The ever-riveting Rosie has been a ratings boon to the morning gabfest since she arrived last September, but rumors of her departure have been persistent.

The Post also says that Rosie wants executive producer Bill Geddie out, but a “View” rep says, “There is not one detail of this that is accurate.”

As a friend of mine likes to say: Niiice. You’d think O’Donnell might show Walters some loyalty and gratitude for the move from her Yoo Hoo-stained sofa to the View table, and put up with Geddie for a year until she gets her own gig. But I guess from O’Donnell’s point of view, she saved a dying franchise and under the “I bought it, so I can break it” policy is entitled to smash whatever she wants on her way out.

Geddie not only created the show with Barbara Walters, he is her longtime friend and producer who produces her Oscar gabfests and other specials. ABC Daytime was dead until Baba and Bill came along with their idea for “The View.” But it is likely that, since retiring from “20/20” and allowing O’Donnell to essentially take over “The View,” Walters has lost much of her leverage at ABC.

On the other hand, Walters (and even Geddie) may consider Geddie’s departure to be a livable accommodation. ABC can’t tell Walters not to use Geddie on her other projects, and there are surely some on which he can keep busy (or he could do other projects, or take some time off). Besides, if O’Donnell hates Geddie, imagine what it must be like for him to deal with her every day. (I can’t wait to see the dirt that becomes public once O’Donnell is off the show.)

I am sure Star Jones – who is set to start her own show on Court TV – is looking on all of this with great interest and perhaps some pity. Jones said after leaving “The View” that Walters “didn’t have her back.” Despite holding no brief for Jones up to that time, I had to agree with her. Jones agreed to finish out her contract even though she knew she had been fired at the behest of ABC. Walters did not go to bat for her with the network, and nasty gossip about Jones continued to emanate from the View set. Then last spring when O’Donnell (who had not yet been hired onto “The View”) publicly questioned Jones’ weight loss, Walters took O’Donnell’s side.

Jones could have played the race card over her firing, but didn’t. When stories leaked that viewers were turned off by her weight loss and swish wedding, she could have taken the position that all she did is what white female celebrities do every day, and ABC should have backed her up. Instead, they bowed to the bigotry of some of their audience by firing her.

When I think of Jones’ departure, I can’t help but be reminded of the “Saturday Night Live” spoof of “The View,” in which Walters (Cheri O’Teri) describes her ideal show including “a sassy black woman, like I’ve seen on TV.” Perhaps when Jones ceased to fill (literally and figuratively) that mold, she became too uppity for the View couch. No doubt the race issue was at least partly behind Walters’ promise to Jones that they would publicly say whatever Jones wanted to make it look like her departure from the show was voluntary.

But, for whatever reason – perhaps simply gratitude for the opportunity to be on “The View” – Jones declined to play hardball with Barbara Walters, even though Walters had acceded to ABC’s request that Jones be dumped from the show. True, Jones pre-empted the pre-arranged “announcement” of her departure by one day, gave a few interviews, and went on Larry King to tell her side of the story, but that was all minor media management. She never challenged ABC’s decision to fire her, and throughout the piece she repeated her admiration for and gratitude to Walters.

O’Donnell, however, has not been so grateful, or reticent about playing all her cards, despite having been dealt into the game by Walters in the first place.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with everything you have written here but there is one thing still not picked up on: Rosie took on the Trump and won.

In the eyes of many she is like Joan of Arc right now. In my mind Rosie is just another big mouth like Trump is and we are in the era of boring people that are famous for being well known and not famous for being talented at anything showbiz related.

Joan Tintor said...

"Rosie took on the Trump and won"

A good point and I would agree, to the extent that Barbara Walters took O'Donnell's side over Trump's. But when you look at the language he used about O'Donnell, that probably wasn't too hard.

rondi said...

I tend to agree that what is oddest about all of this is that I am now feeling kindly towards Star Jones! She is looking much better now, too. Must be getting away from all of that drama.