By Michael Slezak
July 17, 2006 at 09:33 PM EDT

Pity poor Star Jones: Ratings for The View were up 8 percent for the week of July 3, the first five days since her very public split from the daytime chatfest. But in her defense, I’m guessing the viewership spike had more to do with interest in the show’s rotating roster of guest hosts than with Star hatas returning to the fold in her absence.

I mean, I wasn’t about to miss this morning’s edition, featuring guest cohost Kellie Pickler, last season’s sixth-place finisher on American Idol. In fact, if Pickler weren’t going to be busy with a new record deal from Sony-BMG Nashville — she announced her deal during ”Hot Topics” — I’d suggest Barbara Walters think about ejecting Elisabeth Hasselbot in favor of the charming-ditzy Southerner. When Walters mentioned the gossip that the 47-year-old husband of supermodel Christie Brinkley had an affair with a 19-year-old, Pickler (who recently turned 20) scored a big laugh by shouting, ”It wasn’t me!,” and later charmed the crowd with tales of her garage-door-installer beau and the new spa trend in ”fanny facials.” Better still, Pickler wasn’t at all flummoxed when Walters tried to interrupt an anecdote to make her say the word ”sal-mon.”

It was almost enough to soothe my stinging outrage that Pickler will have a single on the airwaves by late September, while fellow Idol contestant Elliott Yamin remains criminally, inexplicably unsigned.

addCredit(“Kellie Pickler: Mark Sullivan/”)