Rosie O'Donnell is returning to TV next fall with a talk show on OWN -- the new cable net owned by Oprah Winfrey. In making the announcement, the two TV titans formed a mutual admiration society. Oprah said, "Rosie is an undeniable talent who has captivated TV audiences for nearly 20 years. She’s a true original, who brings her authentic voice, dynamic energy and pure passion to everything she does." And Rosie added, "It's an honor and a privilege to work with Oprah Winfrey on her network. I’m excited to be back on daytime television."
When Rosie first revealed her intention in March to try her hand at another talk show, there was speculation she might even land in Oprah's time slot when the queen of daytime signed off next summer. However, as Joseph Adalian reports, "local broadcasters hate taking risks and were no doubt worried about just what kind of show the sometimes-controversial ex-Queen of Nice might be planning, even though O'Donnell and her partners had made it clear she wasn't looking to turn into the female Keith Olbermann."
The press release promises "a fun, uplifting show with Ms. O'Donnell's playful and energetic style," and that certainly sounds a lot like Rosie's original daytime talker. That self-titled show dominated the Daytime Emmy Awards during a six-year run that began in 1996. A year after Rosie signed off in 2002, Ellen DeGeneres began her own show, and this new queen of nice now reigns over the TV kudos. However, with Rosie's return, we could soon see a repeat of the smackdown that dominated the Daytime Emmys in the late 1990s.
Rosie's gabfest won best talk show five years in a row (1998-2002) and she took home the best host award for all six years of the show's run (1997-2002). Her initial victories were especially impressive because Oprah 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 won best talk show from 2004 to 2007 and talk show host from 2005 to 2008. In 2008 and 2009, she lost best talk/entertainment show to "Rachael Ray" while the gaggle on "The View" took the hosting prize in 2009. This year, Ellen bounced back with a win for best talk/entertainment show but refused to submit her name for consideration in the host category. Will she continue to opt out of this race now that Rosie looms on the horizon?
Photo: Rosie O'Donnell at the 1997 Daytime Emmy Awards. Credit: Steve Fenn / Associated Press