Ellen DeGeneres needs to watch her Emmy back. Sure, she's been romping through the Daytime Emmys in recent years, but now Rosie O'Donnell is poised to return to the contest, turning it into a real heavyweight bout.
Back when Rosie O'Donnell had her original daytime gabfest, she won Daytime Emmys for best talk show five years in a row (1998-2002) and took home best host awards for all six years of the show's run (1997-2002). Her initial victories were especially impressive because Oprah Winfrey still hadn't bowed out of the Emmys yet. In 1998, Rosie beat Oprah for best talk show and they tied for the hosting trophy. Oprah dropped out of the host race in 1999 and the show race the following year.
Ellen DeGeneres has won both awards four times -- she took talk show host from 2004 to 2007 and talk show from 2005 to 2008. She proved particularly vulnerable last year -- even without Rosie in the race. She lost best talk/entertainment show to "Rachael Ray" and the host award to the gaggle on "The View." The latter outcome was a shockeroo considering that multiple hosts almost never win.
During Rosie's first TV run, she was still widely perceived to be the "Queen of Nice." Now many industry insiders consider her to be the "Queen of Mean," thanks to her reported diva antics. Also, on her old show, Rosie was still in the closet, pretending to be smitten with Tom Cruise. Do her old viewers feel deceived? Ellen's out and that doesn't appear to hurt her TV ratings. And she's the new "Queen of Nice," while Rosie is viewed as militant, sometimes hostile.
Although Rosie may or may not be replacing Oprah in her time slot, she does hope to emulate the soon-to-depart talker with the format for her new show. She told "Entertainment Tonight" that the program, which will begin airing in September 2011, will be "a single-topic, hourlong show about life, love and laughter" and that there will be "no desk" and "no celebs promoting movies," but that there "may be a few giveaways."
Photo: Rosie O'Donnell at the 1997 Daytime Emmy Awards. Credit: Steve Fenn / Associated Press