Monday, March 26, 2012

The End of The Rosie Show

by Amy K. Bredemeyer

I was first introduced to Rosie O'Donnell through A League of Their Own, which remains among my favorite movies to this day. However, it put me under the impression that she was a movie actress, and it wasn't for several more years that I learned of her other (more recognizable) talents. Don't get me wrong, the woman can do great movies, but playing Betty Rubble on The Flintstones wasn't the best idea. From being a comedian on Star Search to having a talk show to having recurring roles on sitcoms like Curb Your Enthusiasm, Nip/Tuck, and Drop Dead Diva, Rosie's a big deal. So, when I learned more about her latest venture, The Rosie Show on OWN, at last summer's TCA tour, I was intrigued.

Photo by John Kringas and Courtesy of OWN
The Rosie Show, which debuted 7pm ET on Monday, October 10th, ran five shows a week, and will conclude its ninety-fifth episode this Friday. It should come as no surprise that the talk show has been cancelled, as that story has been all over the news this past week. Low ratings are to blame, though there are a handful of other theories out there. Rather than look at what failed, I want to take a look at the promise the show held in the very beginning, when Rosie was so full of ideas and enthusiasm. The quotes below come from a conference call with Rosie the week before the show premiered. Thanks to the Communications & Publicity people over at OWN for inviting TheTalkingBox to participate.   

Rosie O'Donnell wasn't familiar with Chicago when she moved there last summer, so when one of the Presidents of Harpo, Erik Logan, had a house for sale, she looked at it and called him, saying, "if you will leave it furnished, I mean, like, down to the toilet paper and some of the nightshirts, I think we have a deal." I have no doubt that Rosie really did say something like that, though I was amused later in the conversation when she talked about "having a heated garage" and "something on the roof to melt the ice" without truly being certain how those little things are great amenities to have in a Chicago winter! Speaking of Chicago, she was thrilled with the area upon arrival. "I actually love it here and can imagine moving and living here for this next chapter in my life... [Chicago] is like a beautiful, clean, European-kind of version of New York... People always say people in the Midwest are nicer, but now that I've been her, I'm like 'Oh my God, they really are." It's lovely to think about settling down for a period of time, but that's not how things went for Rosie, though her show was not doomed from the beginning.

The story of how things came together for The Rosie Show is almost enlightening. Oprah has a tendency to intimidate anyone, and Rosie was no different; "The Oprah is sort of magical, and I was very overwhelmed at just being in her presence when she called me... And at the end of the [four-hour] conversation, she said, 'why is it that you'd rather do it for me than the network you are about to sign with?' And I'm like, 'because you're you.'" That's right, Rosie was tempted to sign with NBC, which would have been a lot more money, but also more pressure. The money didn't matter, as "it was always about trying to do the best job in the best place that would be most congruent with my life and my values." Phrases like this really give you a good feeling and hope for the future of television, which we all know has more than its share of junk these days. Rosie also added that, with doing the show on OWN, "I feel nothing by privilege, truthfully, and it's going to be thrilling." Oprah gave Rosie all sorts of help in setting up the show in Chicago, where the media mogul hosted her daytime show for twenty-five years. When it came to advice, however, Rosie shared that, "'Be yourself and don't resist anything.' That's all she told me." Can you imagine receiving such a confidence-boosting tidbit from the Talk Show Master? It's not all you need, though.

Rosie knew that it would be a tough market to crack. Even though she had a successful television show in the late 90s and early 00s (The Rosie O'Donnell Show finished with over 1,000 episodes), the "daytime TV universe" has "done a 360. It's not the same landscape in any capacity... I had to literally sit down with station owners and advertisers and them, no, I was going to do Merv Griffin. And the philosophy at the time was, 'that will never work,' because what was number-one in daytime in '96 or what was drawing all of the media attention at least - a Jenny Jones guest had been murdered and Geraldo Rivera had his nose broken. That's when I entered the foray, so I was dubbed the Queen of Nice." And things just aren't the same anymore. As a big fan of Jenny Jones, I must say that the bits of talk shows I catch these days are fueled differently than they were back then. But, then again, so many things were different in the days before everyone seemed to have cable. Rosie acknowledged this, too. It "used to be that you had three options: you were going ABC, NBC, or CBS. You were either gonna watch game shows, talk shows, or soap operas, and that was it. But it's changed completely now... they don't know the difference between network TV and cable TV." This change is everywhere, and it's getting more and more difficult to remind the causal viewer that TVLand is new to the "original programming" game and networks like OWN and the Hub weren't always there. Reruns of sitcoms, dramas, old sports games, and a plethora of cartoons are all part of the competition for those "game shows, talk shows, and soap operas" that pretty much had the market to themselves fifteen or twenty years ago.

In addition to the the obstacles that anyone doing this show would face, Rosie was asked what her own biggest challenge was, as a host. An excellent question to address, Rosie's response felt real: "My biggest challenge is, I think, to just be authentic. That's the goal, I think, for every human being, no matter what your job is, and it's sometimes hard when showbiz is so full of pretense that to remain your authentic self is difficult while you're being recorded... trying to be conversational, not presentational, that's the biggest challenge." I have to agree - this is a personal hurdle that we see in many television hosts... you see them one way on afternoon or late-night television and then see them acting very differently when they're out of the "host" role, whether it be in a public appearance or as a guest on another show. With so much knowledge and understanding about what The Rosie Show needed to be, Rosie could have had a winning recipe. Unfortunately, it wasn't in the cards to really fulfill her hope that the show would "give you an hour of uplifting, entertaining laughter, family-oriented, multi-generational, kick-back, relax, and get-ready-for-your-evening" recreation. 

After her show's cancellation, Rosie made a short statement about how it didn't work out.

My final thoughts? At least Rosie was given time to try and improve things - so many shows are taken off the air prematurely these day! Throughout the season, several changes were made, but they really seemed to take away from what made the show different. It was nice to hear, however, that "at the heart of the show is Rosie's genuine desire to entertain, inspire and connect with America," because that doesn't happen nearly enough anymore.
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1 comment:

Annette said...

how cool that you were included in that conference call!