'View' of the future

Published May 31, 2007

NEW YORK - Now that Rosie O'Donnell has exited stage left, The View must find someone to fill her seat and match her watercooler appeal. That won't be easy, but there's a lineup of famous women who would make worthy successors.

The brash, big-hearted O'Donnell brought edge and excitement to The View, lifting ratings and making enemies along the way. But in a move out of line with her fighting persona, she chose to depart the ABC talk show earlier than planned after an on-air confrontation with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck last week.

There's no disputing the star wattage and/or entertainment value of possible replacements Roseanne Barr, Whoopi Goldberg and Bette Midler. Other names mentioned are former talk show host Ricki Lake; comedians Kathy Griffin and Wanda Sykes; Oprah Winfrey's best friend, Gayle King; and genial actor Sherri Shepherd.

No possible contender is buzzier than Barr, who has said she wants the job. Griffin, whose acid-tongued bark is equal to her bite, would be another good choice, said In Touch magazine executive editor Dan Wakeford.

"She's very similar to Rosie in a lot of ways, " Wakeford said. "She elicits strong reactions like Rosie. Love her or hate her, you have a reaction, which makes great TV."

But after dealing with O'Donnell for a year, Walters and the producers may prefer someone who's easier to manage and less dramatic, Wakeford said. The less controversial Shepherd is popular with the producers, he said. Still, "the most important thing is ratings."

Pop culture critic Ken Tucker is skeptical such hopefuls can match O'Donnell's TV talents: humor, controversy and "an ability to keep the show moving." The chatfest needs to "look for a different personality" post-Rosie, he said.

He has an idea: Make co-host Joy Behar the moderator and hire the spunky Sykes as a panelist to replace Star Jones (who either quit or was fired last year, depending on whom you believe).

The likeable Behar, who has an eternal expression of bemusement, has "really come into her own in the past few months since Rosie's been on, " said Tucker, editor-at-large for Entertainment Weekly magazine. "She is somebody who could be the moderator and the kind of voice of reason to keep things going when everybody starts talking over each other."

Behar illustrated that talent when she attempted to distract O'Donnell and Hasselbeck during last week's spat, saying: "Who is directing the show? Let's go to a commercial."

Tucker's other favorite is Lauren Graham, who formerly starred on TV's Gilmore Girls. She is "really smart, " he said, and has been out of work since the mother-daughter dramedy closed this year.