Today’s cuppa: Medium roast from the coffeeshop
Apparently “Rosie Live!,” Rosie O’Donnell’s attempt to revive the variety series, which premiered on Thanskgiving Eve on NBC, was a big bomb, drawing only 5 million viewers (she should have done it on Lifetime or Oxygen — they’d be elevating her to minor TV-deity status with those numbers).
Now certain pundits are claiming the failure may represent the end of any hope the variety show has for a revival.
My question is, what programming genius at NBC thought even 5 million people would tune in to watch Rosie O’Donnell try to be funny right before Thanksgiving? If it was on Thanksgiving night, just for the sake of their full tummies, even more viewers might have taken a pass.
Rosie O’Donnell once had a hit talk show, but that was another time and another Rosie. In the mid-’90s, when “The Rosie O’Donnell Show” launched, O’Donnell had carefully crafted an image as the happy, cheerful, friendly “queen of nice.” She burbled over her guests, lavishing praise on Barbra Streisand and gushing about her crush on Tom Cruise.
Then O’Donnell went on “The View,” and fans got a look the person behind the persona.
I’ve never been an O’Donnell fan, but I wish her only the best in her life and career — and she overcame many difficulties to achieve what looks from the outside like a satisfying family life and professional success. These days, though, she seems to be to be an angry and combative person.
She feuded with her “View” co-workers — and continues to feud with executive producer and co-host Barbara Walters — and became extremely outspoken and forceful, even belligerent, in expressing her views.
There’s nothing wrong with that, in the right setting. Heaven knows, folks like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, CNBC’s Chris Matthews and MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann have made careers out of being loud and opinionated. “The View” continues, without O’Donnell, to be loud, opionionated … and popular.
But none of the above is what one wants in a variety-show host. If you look at some of the great ones —
Ed Sullivan, Lawrence Welk, The Smothers Brothers, Donny & Marie Osmond, Sonny & Cher, Carol
Burnett, Flip Wilson — they were not angry or combative. They were charming and welcoming. Their humor, while it could have an edge, was not threatening or dark. They never got overtly political.
They created a safe space for the whole audience, allowing viewers to relax, get comfortable, laugh and sing along.
O’Donnell might have pulled it off back in the ’90s, but it’s too late to put that genie back in the bottle. Today’s Rosie is about as fuzzy and welcoming as a cranky grizzly bear with a bad rash. Talk about a buzzkill.
I loved variety shows growing up (and yes, I can sing THAT song from “Hee Haw,” and did so today at lunch). I’d dearly like a new one to succeed, with the right host and the right mix of comedy and music. I wonder where our next Flip Wilson (one of my personal faves) or Carol Burnett might be.
But I know one thing for sure — it’s not Rosie O’Donnell. And if she’s allowed to kill the format, shame on TV.