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Rosie O'Donnell's 'Rosie Live': What was she thinking?

Rosie Two words: Dancing food. “Rosie Live” ended with dancing food. There’s nothing else to say, really except perhaps, Liza Minnelli. “Rosie Live” opened with a little song and dance from Liza Minnelli, who rose to the stage, as if from the grave, to sing a duet with O’Donnell, in a luminous white suit, complete with fetching Broadway hat. Liza, we love you, we will always love you, but there is no shame in retirement.

In between we were treated to Harry Connick Jr. in a Santa hat, Conan O’Brien taking a pie in the face, and Jane Krakowski singing about all the free stuff audience members would get. Some of the items were pretty swell, but I’m here to tell you it wasn’t enough. Rosie made jokes about Spanx, Alec Baldwin appeared in a jacket two sizes too small with weird Einstein hair -- neither of which were part of a gag. Clay Aiken strolled over from “Spamalot” to participate in the world’s most painfully long gay joke ("What was the other thing we have in common," Rosie mused, "oh yeah, we're both Gaaa ... briel Byrne fans.") and Alanis Morissette sang a song referencing the 12 Steps in front of, I kid you not, an endless loop of geese flying through a sunset.

Flying geese! There are not enough free video cameras or White Castle burgers in the world to make up for that. And what about the viewers at home? Where are our new cellphones and white strips products?
Rosie, Rosie, what on earth were you thinking? Were you thinking camp? Were you thinking this will be big and brassy and so-over-the-top even the dancing cupcakes will be irresistible? For those of us who are, and remain, Rosie fans, who think “The View” will never quite recover from her departure, who think her desire to resurrect the variety show was, and is, a great idea, disappointment does not even begin to describe it. For weeks now NBC has seduced and tantalized with the promise of a cross between Carol Burnett and “Sonny and Cher.” And this is what we get? Rosie in a glitter top having Baldwin speak into her cleavage and making jokes about her weight? Someone get a hold of Tim Conaway, stat.

To be fair, not everything on the show fell as flat as a turkey at a Sarah Palin picnic, or whatever the line was—yes, there was a Sarah Palin joke but Rosie was in a policeman’s costume at this point and I had my fingers in my ears. The Argentinian Lombard Twins were very good, and never have I been so glad to hear “You Spin Me Round” as when Anti-gravity took the stage with their giant tea cups and their hula hoops. But then we had to endure Kathy Griffin as Nancy Grace and Gloria Estefan making a joke about the turkey being the only one not hungry on Thanksgiving (because, you know, he’s stuffed). Estefan was the final act, but whatever collective relief that fact provided was immediately wiped away by a song  about eating and then, of course, the dancing food. Men and women dressed as slices of cake and giant cookies topped off by Rachael Ray making an appearance with a giant rubber turkey.

“Rosie Live” may enter the realm of unsolved mysteries, along with the fate of Amelia Earhart and the design team of the pyramids. O’Donnell was clearly attempting to recapture the uplifting unapologetic wonder of the big Broadway musical and the television variety show. But having a bunch of talented guests does not a terrific show make—you have to actually give them something interesting to do. Otherwise you're left with, well, a rubber turkey.

-- Mary McNamara

Photo: NBC

 
Comments () | Archives (298)

It's great to see Rosie back and she did a bang up and great job. We all loved the show. NBC has a big winner with this one!

George M.
Kansas City, MO

I really wanted it to be good. I waited for it. I even TiVo’ed it.

What a shock!

From that feeble, old woman that came out of the ground, through the gay this and gay that, to the ending with a rubber turkey, as Whoopi would say, “What the Hell?!

"Rosie Live" was the perfect Thanksgiving TV special - a real turkey, indeed! Rosie proves she is the quintessential ego-maniac, practically refusing to leave the stage the entire hour. I'm surprised she didn't try to break dance or do a little hula hooping herself.

Rosie had a vision that just didn't play well for a number of reasons, including the lack of a talented ensemble cast. If she were pitching this as a regular series, she should have found the kind of new and relatively unknown talent that made Burnett, SNL, Laugh-In, and Second City the successes they were. Instead, Rosie leaned on her friends on the D list, and rather than be a host and let what little talent was there shine, she insinuated herself into nearly every segment. There wasn't one "must-see" act on the show that was billed as family entertainment. Had she had, say, the Jonas Bros., she might have had the pre-teen set begging their parents to watch. Carol Burnett would have been a draw for the older people who made variety shows popular, and it would have been a show of support. Someone in my age bracket, middle-age, might have been drawn to a comedian like Dave Chappelle or Margaret Cho.

As it was, the writing was very poor, the jokes were mundane and meaningless, there were too many dancing/singing numbers, and there wasn't even one great comedy sketch. Should this show be signed by NBC for six more episodes, I can only hope that Rosie, instead of relying solely on her own vision, will consult with those who have worked on successful variety shows before, as well as those who are hungry to express their talents. While she seems to take pride in being a one-woman act, no one person -- even if a multiple Emmy winner -- can create the kind of diversity needed in a full-length variety show.

Personally, I would love to see a great variety show come back to prime time, but this one simply didn't work.

Rosie had a vision that just didn't play well for a number of reasons, including the lack of a talented ensemble cast. If she were pitching this as a regular series, she should have found the kind of new and relatively unknown talent that made Burnett, SNL, Laugh-In, and Second City the successes they were. Instead, Rosie leaned on her friends on the D list, and rather than be a host and let what little talent was there shine, she insinuated herself into nearly every segment. There wasn't one "must-see" act on the show that was billed as family entertainment. Had she had, say, the Jonas Bros., she might have had the pre-teen set begging their parents to watch. Carol Burnett would have been a draw for the older people who made variety shows popular, and it would have been a show of support. Someone in my age bracket, middle-age, might have been drawn to a comedian like Dave Chappelle or Margaret Cho.

As it was, the writing was very poor, the jokes were mundane and meaningless, there were too many dancing/singing numbers, and there wasn't even one great comedy sketch. Should this show be signed by NBC for six more episodes, I can only hope that Rosie, instead of relying solely on her own vision, will consult with those who have worked on successful variety shows before, as well as those who are hungry to express their talents. While she seems to take pride in being a one-woman act, no one person -- even if a multiple Emmy winner -- can create the kind of diversity needed in a full-length variety show.

Personally, I would love to see a great variety show come back to prime time, but this one simply didn't work.

Rosie O' Donnell could never do anything less than stunning!!!!!!!!!!

Rosie O'Donnell could never do anything less than stunning!!!!!!!!!
She is an amazing woman and one hell of an artist.
I dedicate the rainbow over Santa Monica (see weatherchannel website)
to Rosie and Kelli Carpenter O'Donnell.

Ya know what? Yeah, it was cheesy & old-fashioned & very, very gay (all things Rosie admitted in her promo interviews), but I sat through the whole thing with a silly smile on my face. She definitely needs better writers, less guests so they get more time, & actual skits with sets & costumes & funny one-liners. But my family enjoyed it enough to want her to be given a chance with a series where she can tune up & polish the concept until it is a twenty-first century Carol Burnett show, only live & on Broadway! She has said that the home audience will be able to enter contests to win the prizes if she gets a series, btw.

Mary McNamara for PRESIDENT!
That was THE most satisfying review - NAILED it!
I 100% agreed with EVERY syllable, including the acknowledgment that The View will never be as good as when she was on it.
I love Rosie and only want the best for her, but we were left scratching our heads till they bled on this one.

I am Canadian and even I couldn't make out the words to Alanis Morrisettes loopy dull song. Fat Alec and Fat Rosie and stripper Jane, ugh. Dancing food, trembling LIza and spinning tops, colour me lame. Even the bad lighting didn't help the show cause my eyes were already squeezed shut, the horror, oh the horror. The only relief in that entire hour was when the gorgeous Harry Connick Jr slipped through the groan door, smiled and then moved away from Rosie to belt out a xmas tune, an oh too brief moment that could not save the show. And who turned on Rosie's cleavage mike during the singing parts of the show? Damn you sound check man, damn you.

Oh my... what a disaster. I will be surprised if this one makes it to Christmas. And PLEASE America... understand that Rosie does NOT speak for all gay people.

My family loved the show. Rosie has a winner with this show.

My family loved the show. Rosie has a winner with this show.

My husband was flipping through the channels last night and stopped on this Rosie show at about the time Rosie and Gloria Estefan were singing and some people, dressed up as food, were dancing on the stage. After about 45 seconds our ears and eyes were hurting so much that we turned the channel. What an embarrassment to NBC and anyone else associated with that ridiculous program.

I liked it. I just thought it was too small for a variety show. Times have changed and you need more expansive things for a variety show.

If the Variety Show wasn't already dead it was just killed for sure by Rosie O'Donnell! A total waste of potentially good guest stars.

Rosie, a supposed stand-up comic, was stiff and unfunny. Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Harry Connick Jr, Clay Aiken, and Kathy Griffin, who could have made for a good show if properly used, were paraded on and off in seconds while prime time was given to bland and boring pop tunes from Neo (wtf?) and Alanis Morissette (unintelligible – I couldn’t understand a word she was singing) and weird unknown vaudeville-type acts.

Let us hope that this universally-panned debacle is not brought back, as promised, as a weekly show. A total insult to the much-missed variety shows of the 50s–70s.

I agree -- love Rosie, but this was just awful. Here's hoping it was first night jitters and next show will be a great improvement.

It was fun to see Liza, BUT, they both seemed to miss many notes and the show went downhill from there.

Mary McNamara's review of the Rosie O'Donnell variety show are sadly 100% correct. Ed Sullivan, the master of the variety show, had enough sense to stand back and let the entertainers entertain. Rosie O'Donnell wasted almost half of her hour with stupid banter and infantile shticks. If she ever gets a chance to do another show like this she must learn to introduce the talent and then GET OFF THE STAGE. Also, a word must be said about the number of commercials on television these days. Until producers learn to reduce the number of commercials to approximately where they were 10-15 years ago, audiences will continue to decline.

Except for the spinners, I thought the show was entertaining enough.

Beth
Mahwah, NJ

 
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