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A Rosie beginning

The View's newest co-host slides into place on a new set, but everything else about the show remains very familiar.

Published September 6, 2006

NEW YORK - "My name is Meredith Vieira, and welcome to The View," said Rosie O'Donnell, introducing herself - as if that were necessary - on the ABC chat show Tuesday.

Filling the moderator slot vacated in June by Vieira (who went to NBC's Today show), O'Donnell was greeted by a rousing standing ovation from the studio audience. And she coyly suggested that her longtime crush, Tom Cruise, had sent the huge flower arrangement on the floor beside her.

The show began its 10th season with O'Donnell joining the returning Joy Behar, Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Barbara Walters. Another change was a cozy, blue and orange arenalike set with a glass-top version of the famous drop-leaf table the ladies sit around for their "Hot Topics" segment.

Other things were very familiar. There was talk of their children peeing on the floor. Of taking nude baths with their kids - or, in Hasselbeck's case, in a swimsuit. Words like vomit and booby were heard.

Also mentioned: the retirement of tennis great Andre Agassi and the death of Crocodile Hunter's Steve Irwin.

"How long have we been on the air? Four minutes?" Walters said after the show's more-hopped-up-than-usual initial burst. She asked O'Donnell, "How do you feel?"

"Really excited to be here, and kind of ecstatic," O'Donnell gushed.

(The day's guest was Jessica Simpson, complete with micro-minidress and a croaky speaking voice - from a bruised vocal cord - that somehow had no impact on her song performance.)

O'Donnell made a good start after several years of mishaps, including her short-lived, lawsuit-plagued magazine, Rosie, and her noisy coming-out as a lesbian, that damaged the "Queen of Nice" image she had earned during six hit seasons as host of her own daytime talk show.

What brought O'Donnell back to daytime TV? The taped feature "Where has Rosie been?" allowed her to give her own account of the past four years since leaving her talk show, point by point.

Why did she leave her talk show in May 2002? To rest, and to help raise her four children with her partner, Kelli Carpenter O'Donnell.

"I think last time I got a little swept away by the undertow," she said of her former series. "I think it's been a good break for me, but I think I'm definitely ready" for a return.

The magazine litigation: "by far the most troubling event that ever happened to me."

On coming out? "I sort of thought everybody knew" already, she said.

Then she spoke of her luck in landing a lead role last year in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. "I really am not gifted enough to be a Broadway star," she cracked. "I'm really good to be a replacement."

[Last modified September 6, 2006, 06:03:38]

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