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ISBS Review: Rosie Live! – Dead on Arrival

By Brian | December 8, 2008 | Share on Facebook

Last Saturday, I summarized all of the bad reviews that Rosie O’Donnell’s new variety show, Rosie Live!, received on it’s premiere (and, as it turns out, finale) show. At the end of the post, I off-handedly commented that I’d really like to see the show now, just to see how bad it was. And then Jason egged me on. So tonight, I put myself through watched it.

First of all, let’s be clear: the show deserved every bad review it got. It was truly awful. And, since I watched it with an eye toward what made it so bad, I think I’ve got it figured out: Rosie simply cannot get out of her own way.

Did you ever go to a local comedy club? You know, the kind where there’s an emcee who does a few minutes of stand-up to warm up the crowd, then introduces the next act, then comes back and does some more stand-up, then introduces the headliner, then reminds you to tip your waitresses and says goodnight? OK, did you ever truly hate the emcee? I mean, has he/she ever been one of those people that just rubs you the wrong way as soon as he/she takes the stage? To the point where even if you enjoyed the comedian, when you saw the emcee you thought, “Ugh….this guy again?!?” If you know what I’m talking about, then you know what Rosie Live! was like.

Every time Rosie was on stage, the material was cringe inducing. The comedy bits were lame, poorly rehearsed, and ill-timed (Example #1: “Oh, let me see who’s at the door. Why, it’s Jane Krakowski! <at which point, Rosie opens the door>. Example #2: “Wait a minute, was that the doorbell? <NBC chimes sound – bing, bong, bing…> Why, yes it was!”). And her singing was, as it always is, barely passable.

But here’s the thing: even that wouldn’t have killed the show. The main problem was that Rosie was in all but four of the numbers – a pair of tap-dancing twins, an acrobatic act that called back Ed Sullivan’s spinning plates (now with Segways!), and two musical guests – a jazz singer who’s name I’ve instantly forgotten and Alanis Morrisette. In every other case, Rosie inserted herself for no apparent good reason. As such, major talent like Liza Minelli, Jane Krakowski, Kathy Griffin, Clay Aiken, Harry Connick Jr. and Gloria Estefan had no room to shine. They either performed with Rosie as an anchor around their waists, or walked on and off stage, barely performing at all. Clay Aiken made a lame joke about how both he and Rosie were gay, but didn’t sing a single note. Harry Connick Jr. plugged his Christmas CD, sang a few bars of a Christmas song, and was then ushered off the stage by Rosie so the show could move on. If you go back and read the list of names I just mentioned, you can’t help but admit that the lineup is pretty impressive (not every performer appeals to everyone, but remember – this is supposed to be a variety show. That’s the point).

The intervening comedy bits (like the comedy club emcee coming back on to introduce the next act), were poorly written and inclusive of popular TV personalities (Alec Baldwin, Conan O’Brein, and others). I’d have even given these a pass because I remember the old Bob Hope specials, where he’d do the exact same thing. A master comedian like Bob Hope (or Johnny Carson, or Dave Letterman) can be funny to watch even when the jokes are dying. But Rosie just couldn’t pull that off. It didn’t help that she started the show by talking about how overweight she was and then grabbing her own breasts. This theme carried throughout the comedy sketches, as guest after guest made reference either to her cleavage or her weight. The closing number, with Gloria Estefan, was a song entitled “I’ll Eat Tomorrow,” and contained dancers wearing giant food costumes (think: Beauty and the Beast – the stage show) and Rachel Ray walking on stage with a giant (fake) turkey.

The bottom line: the great variety shows of the past featured their hosts, but they weren’t about their hosts. The purpose of the show was to showcase the guests, and the host existed to weave it together. This show was an on-stage tribute to Rosie herself. With four exceptions, everything was by Rosie, about Rosie, with Rosie or for Rosie. When it ended (and before she read the reviews), I’m guessing Rosie was pretty happy about how it all went. Unfortunately, no one else in America agreed.

Topics: ISBS Reviews, Primetime TV | 6 Comments »

6 Responses to “ISBS Review: Rosie Live! – Dead on Arrival”

  1. jason says at December 8th, 2008 at 2:24 pm :
    You’ve done a great service, sir, watching that mess so no one else (who hadn’t already seen it) would have to. It sounds truly painful… and not in the least surprising. The big problem with Rosie as a performer, host, personality, human being, etc., is that she always finds a way to make it — whatever “it” may be — all about her. She is truly obnoxious.

  2. Brian says at December 9th, 2008 at 1:26 am :
    Sadly, Jason, you are correct.

    It’s funny, too, because her daytime talk show was exactly the opposite. She was America’s friendly neighbor, kibitzing with the audience and the guests, joking around about Tom Cruise, keeping it light and breezy, etc., etc..

    Near the end, it got a little rougher (remember Tom Selleck and the gun control issue?) Then, it was like she collapsed entirely. Now she’s just angry & self-absorbed all the time.

    Shame – she was quite the entertainer before the breakdown…

  3. jason says at December 10th, 2008 at 7:20 pm :
    Yeah, it makes you wonder what, precisely, was the trigger. Seems like the anger all started bubbling up right around the time she came out as a lesbian, which is weird because embracing your true identity is supposed to make you happy, isn’t it? (No snark intended there… I’m very supportive of homosexuals — and everyone else for that matter — feeling free to be whatever they are, without any charade.) I guess sometimes people just change, and we’re not privy to everything that’s gone on in her life, despite the tabloids…

  4. Brian says at December 10th, 2008 at 8:09 pm :
    I think you’re right, Jason. Best I can surmise (and we’re in 100% speculation mode at this point) is that she became obsessed with “causes,” including gay rights, but also war protests, etc.

    It’s funny – I remember the same thing happening with Ellen DeGeneres when she announced her homosexuality. It was a huge media event, and her sitcom, which was once very good, became a rather obvious platform for espousing pro-gay rights messages. Even as someone who agrees with everything she was saying, I must admit – I stopped watching it. It just wasn’t funny anymore, nor was it true to the characters (Ellen’s fictional friends, many of whom showed average or above average intelligence throughout the show’s run would ask her questions like ‘What do lesbians drink in a gay bar?’ Answer: the same thing everyone else drinks, Audrey. Ugh!). Anyway, I’m really glad to see her with a successful talk show now, and quick to point out that her sexuality, while still public, is not the focus of the show, nor is it mentioned frequently in the media anymore.

    The comparison between the two women suggests I’m discussing lesbians, but really what I’m trying to say is that Hollywood seems to encourage “mantle carrying,” which can have damaging impacts on the person’s career.

    Just a theory…

  5. jason says at December 11th, 2008 at 1:33 am :
    I agree. Celebrities are as entitled to their opinions and causes as anyone, but they’re in a strange position. By nature of their fame and influence, they can spread their messages much farther than an ordinary citizen, and who could resist getting out the word on something they really care about?

    Unfortunately, however, fame often breeds arrogance (on the part of the celeb) and contempt (on the part of ordinary folks who wonder why this person should be taken any more seriously than anyone else just because they’re in movies/on TV), and of course you always risk alienating someone when you start spouting your opinions. So if your career is based on ingratiating yourself to the widest possible spectrum of people… well, I’m sure it’s a tough position to be in. We get just a small, small taste of it as bloggers (I don’t know about you, but I worry constantly about alienating people when I write about potentially controversial subjects… and yet I often feel compelled to write anyway).

    I will say, for whatever it’s worth, that I never found Rosie to be as inherently likable as Ellen, and I always had the feeling that Ellen was uncomfortable with being a poster child for the cause. But that could be just my own subjective impressions…

  6. Henry Anderson says at May 27th, 2010 at 8:36 pm :
    i always remember the music of Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine. great music!.:”"


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