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What happened to Rosie?

Remember when Rosie O'Donnell was a beloved actress, comedienne and talk show host who make terms like "Cutie-patootie" part of the vernacular?

What happened to that? As you surely know by now, O'Donnell announced yesterday she will not be renewing her contract with ABC's "The View" when it expires this summer. And so will end one of the most tumultuous years in TV history. O'Donnell certainly stirred up things on the late-morning talk show. She even overshadowed her co-host and the show's founder Barbara Walters, who is not meek kitten. And if you don't think that had some role in O'Donnell and ABC being unable to "make the numbers work," as she explained it, you're kidding yourself.

But back to my original question: What happened to Rosie?

She has certainly gone through some transitions during her time in the spotlight. She broke on to the scene in the '80s as a foul-mouthed funny girl from Long Island. She brokered that into the hosting spot on VH1's Stand-up Spotlight, a lucrative movie career and eventually her own afternoon talk show in the late '90s. The six-year run of The Rosie O'Donnell Show was an undeniable success. O'Donnell and her show won several awards and were critic and fan favorites. I even used to watch. I was in college when her showed debuted, and it was easily the most entertaining show on afternoon TV.

But something definitely changed over time. In 2002 she gave up the show and publicly announced she's gay. And around that time, a different Rosie emerged. Or maybe it was the real Rosie. She's made no secret that she wants to be a mouthpiece for the gay community. And that's fine. But why so brash and just outright mean? Maybe what we'd been watching for 20 years was just an act. If it was, it was a good act. Heck, she even earned the moniker "The Queen of Nice" and has adopted several children. Of course, she wasn't always nice. That tough kid from Long Island sometimes came out, like during the famous appearance on her show by Tom Selleck in 1999, when O'Donnell waylaid the NRA member with a diatribe on gun control. She made good arguments (she always did her homework before firing across someone's bow as diminutive Elizabeth Hasselbeck has found out time and again), but Selleck was obviously taken off guard by it happening in what was supposed to be a friendly visit.

The real, visible turning point, though, may have been the legal fight over the death of her namesake magazine. The publisher claimed they pulled plug in part because of O'Donnell's boorish behavior in the office. The court battle, that ended in a dismissal, was ugly, punctuated by O'Donnell often ranting for cameras on the courthouse steps. And remember that musical she produced about Boy George? Yikes!

Last year ABC hired O'Donnell to replace the outspoken and controversial Star Jones on The Viewand help fill the voi that would be left behind when Meredith Vieira would succeed Katie Couric on Today. What's that? You forgot about Jones and her ugly and sudden exit from the show? Count her among the big names O'Donnell eclipsed in the last year. What's strange is that even just five years ago, O'Donnell would have seemed a likely edition to the often diabetic-coma-inducing sweetness of The View. Instead, she evolved to fill Jones' role as the argumentative alpha female.

While it may be tough to figure out what really happened with Rosie, one thing is for sure: People liked her on The View. Ratings for the show have been much higher than before she started, and I have a feeling they'll drop almost as significantly when she leaves. I guess whatever she's doing and whatever she's done works for her. I'm just curious as to which version of Rosie (Queen of Nice or Donald Trump's arch-nemesis) is the deal.

By: Kevin Wuzzardo


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