O'Donnell Unlikely Host for "Price is Right"

Much has been made in the last week or so about Rosie O'Donnell, newly unemployed due to her hasty exit from "The View" in May, having interest--and longtime host Bob Barker's endorsement--in being the new host for "The Price is Right." James Poniewozik, "Time" magazine's TV critic, commented on O'Donnell's prospects today on his blog "Tuned In." "USA Today" also featured a short piece in today's edition on the possibility of O'Donnell hosting "Price." The "USA Today" piece offers quotes from O'Donnell's blog in which she claims to love the game show and from Barker in which he says O'Donnell's knowledge of the show would make her a good host.

With all due respect to the recently retired Barker, I beg to disagree. O'Donnell would be a horrible host for "Price." Whatever one thinks of O'Donnell (and my sense is that most people either love her or hate her, with little middle ground--although personally I am merely ambivalent), her personality type and public persona is entirely out of place for the hosting job of "Price is Right." Any show that O'Donnell has been a regular on has been all about her: her eponymous daytime talk show was certainly so, as was her brief stint moderating "The View." On these programs, her self-centeredness was both appropriate and a strength. For several years, she reigned as the "Queen of Nice" due to the engagement and quirkiness she demonstrated on her daytime talk show. More recently (and after her exit from the closet as a lesbian), her transformed, less-nice persona--which includes an easily riled contentiousness--was on view on "The View," where her one-year stint as moderator helped to carry the show through its post-Meredith Vieira transition.

These qualities that made her a great daytime talk show host and moderator would make her a horrible daytime game show host, especially for "The Price is Right." O'Donnell would be tempted to indulge in self-centered banter and misplaced commentary while hosting "Price," which requires a fast-paced job of emceeing and a host who subordinates his or herself to the pricing games at hand. If allowed to indulge in this way, O'Donnell would wreck the show's timing, and if restrained from such indulgences, she would likely get quickly bored and testy with the gig. Her pre-existing public persona and reputation can do nothing but damage "Price"; Bob Barker became so beloved as the game show's host because his identity as such was (almost) the only thing for which audiences knew him.

Finally, I think that the producers and network for "The Price is Right" have no intention of looking at O'Donnell seriously as "Price" host, for all of the reasons I have detailed. Her flirtation with the job is just that: her flirtation, one that is going to be disregarded by those making the decision on the next "Price is Right" host. And as for Barker's endorsement, James Poniewozik of "Time" succinctly summarizes how much import that holds by reminding us that David Letterman was Johnny Carson's choice of replacement when he retired from "The Tonight Show," and most people know what happened in that case.

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