At seven o'clock last night (like an early bird special), Rosie O'Donnell appeared on the set of her new show, Rosie, which would supposedly save Oprah Winfrey's network. We'll go ahead and rip off the bandage right now: it won't.
The show opened with nearly 10 minutes of Rosie doing standup in front of the audience, which was sort of funny and was actually broadcast live. Though it's been 15 years since her previous talk show, the new incarnation felt same as The Rosie O'Donnell Show. During her opening monologue we got a 3-minute impersonation of her buddy Penny Marshall, stories about her children, and plenty of banter between the band leader, Katreese Barnes (who is awesome, talented, and happens to be one of the Emmy-award winning writers behind Andy Samberg and Justin Timberlake's "Dick In A Box"). The only thing missing was a CD player queued up to play "Tommy Can You Hear Me" on demand.
Fellow OWN employee Suze Orman was placed in the audience and chatted with Ro for a while until it segued into an elaborate and jazzy musical number with a full set of shirtless male dancers behind her. (Ugh, why?) I would have given the show a few bonus points for playing games with the audience if Ellen hadn't already been doing it for years. Plus, there was no mention or use of koosh balls. Rosie, how you've changed.
Later, she held her first interview with guest Russell Brand. This had to have been one of the worst interviews I've ever seen. First of all, why is Rosie suddenly conducting her interviews as if she was actually Oprah? Is this some kind of network requirement? The mannerisms, the questions, the sing-song-y voice, it was almost like watching Rosie do an impression of herself if she were doing an Oprah impression for a sketch comedy show. That is to say, it was meta-bad.
And the whole episode felt rough, really rough. And it's unfortunate that OWN has placed all of its eggs in this weak basket. It felt a little like we were watching Rosie's comeback and failure simultaneously; the ornate, sparkly stage was more exciting that was was actually happening on that stage. And who decided to schedule this show at 7pm? The slot also conflicts with the show's target demographic who is already watching Jeopardy.
Ro is acting like a watered-down version of herself — and also acting like Oprah herself. If Rosie doesn't feel like Rosie — and it doesn't — it's the show's coffin, and by extension, the OWN Network. Like the network itself, the show appears to be in the midst of an identity crisis: it's not a late-night show, it's not a daytime show, it's just a random show on at a random time, on a random network that you can't ever find on your cable box anyway.