I liked her in League of Their Own and Sleepless in Seattle, but I fell in love with Rosie O’Donnell after seeing her 1995 HBO stand-up comedy special. She was edgy, angry, lovable and freaking brilliant.
Seventeen years later, she is a mother of four and an activist. Life seems to have smoothed her rough edges (she can now perform without dropping the f-bomb) and her now-two-week-old The Rosie Show is working. At least for me.
O’Donnell describes it in daily promos as a “new comedy and variety, reality, talk, game-show puppet thing I’ve got going on,” and that’s accurate, except for the puppets.
There’s a smidge of Broadway, regular musical performances (including her own off-pitch improvisations), and extended interviews with intriguing celebrities. In some cases, as in her premiere show with actor Russell Brand, those celebrities promote worthy community causes in an Oprah-esque fashion.
If you are fan of Rosie O’Donnell, you’ll like the show. If you aren’t, you shouldn’t be watching, much less posting crude comments online.
What works: The time slot, at 7 pm. It’s not “late night,” so she is neither competing against nor trying to set herself apart from other late-night shows. And since it airs on the cusp of primetime, the game-show bits, such as “Build that Tune” and “The Ro Game,” are propitious, considering this is the timeslot owned by Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!
The most apt description comes from James Poniewozick of Time magazine: “It’s like 11 am had a baby with 11 pm.”
What doesn’t work: The singing — both hers and others’. I have never shared O’Donnell’s affinity for Broadway musicals, TV themes and bad pop music. I tolerate her crooning the same way I tolerate Ellen’s dancing.
O’Donnell’s mission to be “authentic” fell on its face with the audience Q&A at the start of the show. Within a few episodes, it became apparent that the questions were pre-orchestrated set-ups for her next segments.
Rosie’s daytime talk show killed for six seasons (1996-2002), so there’s no reason this wiser, now openly gay and still damn solid entertainer can’t carry this timeslot. And although Oprah will be more forgiving of low ratings than another network head, it would be good if that starts happening soon.
“Spectators stand on the sidelines lacking the balls to do this job,” grumbles Kelsey Grammer in his over-the-top characterization of a scary-tough, committed-but-corrupt mayor of Chicago. Boss’s intense Tom Kayne is a major departure from Grammer’s charmingly dorky Frasier. (Starz, Sundays 10 pm)Last Man Standing
Parts of Tim Allen’s “manly man” sitcom are effective. About one-third of the jokes are funny, and written expressly for Allen’s deadpan, grouchy delivery. There is a freshness to the character development of his three modern daughters here, but the show isn’t cohesive enough to be lovable. Last Man Standing takes cues from both Roseanne and All in the Family, but it’s not strong enough to be either. (ABC, Tuesdays, 8 pm)
There’s an element of Flight of the Conchords to this quirky comedy on Direct TV’s Audience Network. It’s an indie show about an indie radio station DJ team, and people have British accents and hatch outlandish schemes. (DirecTV, channel 239, Thursdays, 6 pm)