New “Rosie” show hyped as different – and now worse

Step right up ladies and gents and get your front row seats!  You too can see what promises to be one of the greatest and saddest spectacles in recent television history.  Yes, gather round for the “The Rosie Show” and witness its amazing feats of  self-destruction.

If Chicago-based “The Rosie Show” had its problems at the get-go last fall — and it had plenty of them — the talk show is far worse off now having, in essence, re-debuted in recent days as something entirely different, and infinitely worse, than it initially was.

What’s more, this debacle in the making cannot be good news for the Oprah Winfrey Network or for Harpo Studios, which has been the production’s home base.

“The Rosie Show” was supposed to be a shining example of the kind of quality popular programming OWN could produce. Instead, it has turned into a major embarrassment and a shocking indication of just how wrong things are going at a cable channel still trying to find its bearings.

One certainly does begin to wonder how much longer OWN can last with programming this poor and with audiences undoubtedly racing to turn the channel.

Stripped of audience and band, show is claustrophobic

Oprah announces “The Rosie Show” on OWNBut back to “The Rosie Show.” The degree to which “The Rosie Show” has degenerated so quickly is amazing. Presumably with Rosie O’Donnell’s blessing, the show’s producers have stripped away the few things that gave it some semblance of life.

We’re talking about such important elements as a live audience for starters. Gone too is the live band and its ebullient  leader, who did little in the talk show’s original incarnation, but at least added more liveliness to the proceedings.

What is left is O’Donnell sitting at a desk in a claustrophobic room talking to her guests.  And what a ridiculous room.  It looks as if it were some scenic designer’s nightmare idea of what a child’s romper room might look like — all bright colors with lots of knickknacks all around and “Rosie” spelled out in tall letters as a backdrop.  Ghastly.

But the worst part of all this is that it’s like watching a desperate talk show host gasping for air in a vacuum.  O’Donnell may think she can make things work all by herself.  But she’s wrong.  Whether she acknowledges them or not, she’s needs that audience in the room to feed off of.  Without them, she comes off as trying way too hard to be fun, with only her guest — good, bad or indifferent — to help her along.

Rosie is obviously uncomfortable being in Chicago

And even though months have passed since “The Rosie Show” debuted in the Harpo Studios space, O’Donnell still hasn’t realized, it appears, that she is actually taping the show in a theater city.  On last Friday’s show, yet again she was going on and on about how she loves New York’s Broadway theater scene and how fabulous it is.

What’s worse is that it remains eminently clear O’Donnell, a hardcore New Yawker, isn’t comfortable doing her show in the Windy City.

At the end of a vapid interview last Friday with giggly “2 Broke Girls” star Beth Behrs, O’Donnell leaned over her desk and thanked her guest for coming to “Chicaaaahhhhhgo” to be on the show.  From the way O’Donnell made it sound, one would think Behrs had been forced to walk barefoot over hundreds and hundreds of miles of red hot coals to get the studio.  Such punishment.

It all grew even more pathetic by the end of the hour, however, as O’Donnell spent a few minutes explaining some of the reasoning for the new track “The Rosie Show” has taken.  The host referenced her years as a stand-up comic and the grueling aspects of such a profession. She sniffed that she didn’t want that kind of job any more as she turns 50 years old next month.

Now she told us she just wants to have conversations with people. 

Well, that may be what O’Donnell wants, but the way she’s doing it right now will never work. If she’s sitting in this closed-off room because her producers told her it will work, she better stop believing it right now. Because it won’t.  

The curtain blessedly came down on last Friday’s show as O’Donnell was reading some tweets about the “The Rosie Show’s”  new look  Predictably, she offered up a few comments from viewers that were pro and a few that were con. 

But she couldn’t resist giving a little slap on the wrist to one Tweeter who made a dyke (slang for lesbian) comment, but spelled it “dike.”  Perhaps under different circumstances that could have been a cute TV moment.  But at the conclusion of the horror that is an hour of the newly-revamped “The Rosie Show,” it was merely cringe-inducing.

Contact Lewis Lazare at