On the night before Thanksgiving, Rosie O’Donnell’s variety show Rosie Live! on NBC gobbled in and out shamefully as a real turkey. The fact that Rachael Ray paraded around the finale with a rubber turkey only lent a surreal tackiness to the whole weakly cobbled together affair. Mercifully only an hour long, sadly this lackluster unimaginative gobbler felt like it went on forever and a day. Rosie – once wildly popular talk show host by herself – then more wildly popular because of controversy and celebrity feuds as part of ABC’s The View, laid an egg so stinky only a mother could love it – though barely.
With heavyweight Broadway, music and Hollywood hitters like Alanis Morrisette, Liza Minelli and Alec Baldwin making appearances, what exactly went wrong? Watching this instant non-classic, what came to mind was High School Talent Show Night. You know, that hastily slapped together performance showcase your fellow classmates crafted, while still managing to ace exams, date sweethearts and remain a fashion icon much to the envy of your peers. What? You never managed all of those things? My point exactly. Rosie doesn’t do any of them either. She sets up skits – more like mini comic moments – which fall flat or never mature to us getting or appreciating the joke. This is one half baked Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.
Clay Aiken shows up just as an excuse to fire off some gay jokes. Kathy Griffin appears as Nancy Grace – after the real Nancy Grace flashes on a video screen. It’s just one of many “What the…” moments that left me scratching my head wondering how a legitimately funny comedian like Griffin – winner of two Emmy Awards for her Bravo reality show My Life On The D-List – was talked into serving up such lukewarm fare.
Above all other weird, forced or plainly bizarre moments of this comically castrated show was a Rosie duet & dance with Jane Krakowski (30 Rock) – where they proceeded to bribe an already dutifully adoring live audience into even more of a frenzy by promising free Blackberrys and other assorted advertiser swag. I guess this works on Oprah, or The View or way back in the 1990’s when Rosie herself lavished gifts on her talk show audience. Why this would be an inducement for home viewers to clap or help them identify with a variety show’s live audience is yet another mystery.
Rosie had a chance to do real cutting edge comedy. How about a skit of The View – where she pokes fun at her old co-workers and herself. Dial up a buddy like Nathan Lane to play loud mouthed Rosie, while O’Donnell conjures up a facsimile of former boss Barbara Walters. A little psychological role play to a national audience which also watched the real thing play out might have been hilarious and cathartic for all involved.
Such a finely honed comic skit requires careful planning, casting, writing and execution – something foreign to this “let’s put on a show!” debacle. Rosie’s become a victim of her own style – the one which made her famous. Her talk show was both tribute and modern take on shows like The Mike Douglas Show or The Merv Griffin Show. Rosie seems now to be dipping into her own past, by using stale – though attractive to deep pocketed corporate admen – audience bribery or lame prop humor. These things worked on her daily talk show with starry eyed out of towners in the audience thrilled to be live with Rosie, but as comic, entertainment fuel for a prime time variety hour?
Rosie should remember her love for Broadway, by recalling the old adage: If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage. Rosie, if you’re going to do this ever again, get some really good writers to work it out, please!