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EntertainmentColumnistsVerne Gay

We have problems with Rosie O'Donnell's TV return

Rosie O'Donnell

Rosie O'Donnell Photo Credit: NBC UNIVERSAL, INC.

Rosie O'Donnell's coming back, and we all know what that means.

Let the wild rumpus begin.

Earlier this week, O'Donnell said she will launch a new TV talk show in September 2011, saying via news release, "I've evolved and grown and learned a lot about myself over the last eight years. The business has changed significantly since I left and obviously, come fall 2011, daytime television will change in a very dramatic way."

Translation: I'm a nice person again, and Oprah is leaving.

Nonetheless, her comeback faces challenges. Here are three problems, along with possible solutions:

 

PROBLEM Rosie is talented, smart and funny, but also tends to demolish her working relationships (her publisher Gruner + Jahr . . . MSNBC . . . "The View" . . .

SOLUTION Get a strong producer and listen to him/her. As it happens, O'Donnell's backers are Scott Carlin and Dick Robertson, former Warner Bros. execs behind her successful late-'90s talk show. (Also, do not invite Elisabeth Hasselbeck on the show.)

 

PROBLEM O'Donnell is a lightning rod. "Access Hollywood" did a recent poll that determined that 60 percent of respondents would not watch a new O'Donnell show. A bad omen.

SOLUTION Stay away from politics. For O'Donnell, that's like asking a kid to stay away from the Wii. Oprah Winfrey avoided politics and even left the show to join the stump with Barack Obama; she seemed to hope (or naively believe) fans wouldn't notice or care about her crusade. They did.

 

PROBLEM The standard-issue American-based talk show is predicated on selling the vast output of the American entertainment industry (books, other TV shows, music and especially movies), along with everything else people in the viewing audience happily consume, notably food, fashion and cosmetic products. But if half of the audience doesn't like your politics (or you), then they are ill-inclined to buy this stuff.

SOLUTION Find a compelling, smart, interesting and, above all, useful way to talk about, say, movies, and if you can't, then find someone else who can - hire a critic as contributor, or other contributors who know about their fields. Oprah did. Look where it got her - and them.

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