The Rosie Show Series Premiere: A Timid Start for Oprah's Newest Headliner

It’s tough to judge a talk show by its maiden voyage alone, but the series premiere of OWN’s The Rosie Show revealed a program in which the whole seemed to run three times as long as the sum of its flawed parts.

Things got off to an inauspicious start with host Rosie O’Donnell performing a pedestrian standup routine (on a poorly lit stage) that found the outspoken comic feigning shock about her bosses (including network honcho Oprah Winfrey) allowing her to broadcast live (“shut the front door!” she shouted), complaining that the early call time for a GMA interview had her thinking the show should be renamed “Grouchy Morning America,” and recounting that when her two youngest children heard about her new show concept, they simultaneously asked, “You think people are gonna watch that?”

A followup segment in which audience members got to ask questions of our hostess was decidedly more promising. When one man wondered, aside from work, what made O’Donnell proudest, she predictably answered her children, but then shared she was also pleased to have rejected her stylists’ demands to wear Spanx on air. Who knew the slimming undergarment contained a “pull-apart pee area” that allows the wearer to perform a “squat, pull, and release” maneuver? That’s the kind of unfiltered, and at time uncomfortable, edge that makes O’Donnell an interesting TV persona. After only two questions, though, O’Donnell fielded a query from celebrity money expert Suze Orman (pretending not to be famous) that led to what was only a mildly amusing song-and-dance interlude, “We’re From Chicago Live,” set to the tune of “The Night Chicago Died” and featuring shirtless Broadway hunks.

If O’Donnell really wants her show to succeed, though, she’ll need to become a far more intuitive interviewer. She actively encouraged her first guest, Russell Brand, to play up an exhausting shtick about having been named “three-time shagger of the year.” But when the conversation turned to the British comic’s successful battle with addiction, O’Donnell refused to push her guest beyond his slightly arch advice about having to discover that his problems were “spiritual” and that a setback should be viewed as nothing more than “a transitory experience that will eventually become joy.” Did Brand turn to religion to overcome his woes? How does all that recoveryspeak mumbo jumbo apply to his real-life navigation of the Hollywood scene? It was frustrating as a viewer not to get that followup. Likewise, Brand should have been confronted with whether he’d prefer to go back to anonymous and struggling rather than grapple with the kind of fame that he referred to as “a glistening golden prison of nothingness.”

Things ended on a goofy note, with two audience members squaring off in a trivia segment called “The Ro Game,” and our hostess hilariously cheating to help a law-firm receptionist score a few points against a doctor who needed to “get some humility.” Oh, and Oprah made a five-second appearance shouting the word “confetti!” Ten seconds later, the papery goodness showered the crowd, and some production assistant probably wondered if he or she was about to get sacked.

But back to the bottom line: While O’Donnell made her mark as daytime’s Queen of Nice, we know from her stint on The View and subsequent public appearances that there’s more to this woman than crafts, kids, and observational humor. Unless she’s willing to tap into the harder edge of her public persona — at least just a little — then The Rosie Show is doomed to feel like a bit of a ruse, a tame knock-knock joke from a comic with enough spunk to leave her Spanx in the dressing room.

What did you think of the Rosie Show premiere? Sound off in the comments, and for all my TV recaps and commentary, follow me on Twitter @MichaelSlezakTV.

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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54 Comments
  1. darclyte says:

    Sounds horrible.
    Rosie’s show on Sirius satellite radio has been good.
    Maybe she should have stuck with that.
    A musical number? Seriously? Apparently she didn’t learn anything from the failure of her variety show a few years back.
    I would imagine that she’ll work on it, but if this was the best they could do right off the bat, with ALL the time they had to prepare, that’s NOT a good sign.

  2. Ed says:

    I liked it, it’ll be on my DVR for the rest of the week. It’s just nice to have Rosie back on TV again

  3. Jean White says:

    I liked it and will be watching again! So glad to see Rosie back on tv. Even my hubby watched with me who has never seen Rosie before and he liked it@!

  4. Janice says:

    It was far from perfect, but I have faith in Rosie that she will find the identity for her show in time. I’m thrilled to have her back on TV!

  5. DF says:

    My take was similar to Michael’s. It was an awfully wan show for a premiere. I thought the monologue would never end.

  6. Stacie says:

    I’ve seen a lot of terrible shows, especially daytime/talk shows recently, and this definitely was not a bad premiere. Was it a little shaky? Sure. The announcer botched the beginning of the show(if my ears didn’t deceive me), the standup routine was a little rough, and the interview was a little soft. But the 2 question and answers were nice, and the game show part was pretty funny. The 2 things those have in common were that they were more off the cuff and improv. I know there has to be a script and/or at least a guideline but if Rosie can be more of her off the cuff self than I think she’ll be alright. The singing I can do without, but if you watch a Rosie program you have to know you’ll get her singing, it comes with the territory.

    It’s a decent start. Premieres are tricky, and given the amount of support the OWN network is giving it the show will be around for awhile. There is a lot to grow on.

  7. Michael says:

    I thought it was actually quite good. It was fun, it was funny, and killed the hour quite quickly. She doesn’t need to do a circus for her first show, this was fine. The worst part was Oprah walking on at the end like that’s a big deal or anything. Come on. Stay on your own show.

  8. Tammy says:

    I have it on my DVR. The Chew started off really bad and it’s starting to get a little bit of a flow now…. still bad and stiff but it’s getting better. I’m sure Rosie will take a little while to figure out how to balance what Oprah wants, what America wants and what Rosie wants! But I agree, her radio show was a lot of fun… maybe she needs Bobby and Janette to join her on the tv show. :)

  9. Mark C says:

    Should do fine with LGBT viewers over 60.

  10. MR says:

    Give Rosie a break. It was the first show. Let’s see how it pans out. It’s nice to have her back.

    • Richard Barry says:

      All for giving second chances but show seemed real flat for me. I was thinking there would maybe be a few surprises but not. I doubt that i will watch another unless she has a someone on that i would really like to see.

  11. Mary says:

    I’m attending Wednesday’s taping…perhaps I’ll come back here and give a first-person update :)

  12. bj says:

    Far too many commercials- is that what broke the flow? Or perhaps there was no flow. Ouch. It was pretty sad given all of the hype leading up to the launch. Not really funny- hated the singing, and the interview with Brand did not work at all. At least having seen this on TLC, I know that I’m not missing anything on OWN.

  13. emmy31 says:

    I agree with Michael. Rosie was trying too hard. It felt fake and forced. And someone needs to remind Rosie that she is not a singer. Awful!!

  14. amy says:

    Wow… Rosie got a new talk show?? Had no idea…. Hmmmm guess I don’t care either…..

  15. Tess says:

    I wondered outloud around the moment she broke out into song two things: 1) did she not learn from her ill-fated variety show that she should not rely on song and dance numbers?, and 2) how many people tuned in thinking the show would be like her old show and decided not to stick around long enough to get to the interview portion because there was no John McD sighting?…
    Grading on a curve since it is the first day and it was live I’d give her a solid B. I’d lose the singing, definitely change the announcer, and maybe spice up the band so there is someone she can interact more with. Her stand up bit was ok to me, anyone who thought it tame needs to keep in mind that Oprah isn’t going to let her say something too wild – Oprah’s got her whole network essentially riding on the success (or failure) of Roise’s show so it’s only fair to keep in mind Rosie’s got less control here than she did on her old talk show. They’re airing the show like 4 times a day too so it will likely pick up fans as time goes on and she gets into more of a groove.

  16. Snapy says:

    I love Rosie and her original show, but I’m not sure how I feel about this. It was too much like the Oprah show and not enough like her first series.
    I didn’t like how the audience was so small and so close. I didn’t like the stage. I didn’t really like the mic/stand-up (Rosie should be at a DESK!). I don’t know. It’s hard to live up to the 1996-2002 series, which was so great.

    • Kim R says:

      I am a fan & watched the first show daily. My favorite part of the first series was the 15 min. at the top of the show when she talked to us. I agree, the stage on this new show is not the right feel. I prefer the desk as well. I didn’t care for the Suze Orman plant in the audience either….it felt so fake. Another thing I would change is the announcer. Hmmmmmm….not a fan. (While I’m at it..I really miss John McD) :)
      I really liked the one celebrity/guest format & thought the interview with Russell was interesting & funny. I don’t want Rosie to be more like Oprah. She needs to be like herself..that’s what we all tune in for. Contrary to popular belief, not everything Oprah touches turns to gold. Rosie needs to still be Rosie. :)

  17. Elaine says:

    It wasn’t a bad debut. Rosie’s still very likeable. I liked the monologue. I would have prederred a more in-depth interview with Russell Brand. The game show turned out to be pretty fun and I enjoyed the audience questions (tho Suze ormanpretending not be be herself wasn’t very good… better just to have her be herself.

    And I have to agree… that announcer made my ears bleed to. Her voice so darn high pitched it was almost a squeal. And I didn’t even like the way she handled the intro.

    All in all, I’ll watch. I’m interested to see what Rosie would do in the future … but please take the announcer down a few notches… deeper.. talk deeper girl.

  18. Summer says:

    Nertz. This was today? :| I didn’t even know!

  19. miss scarlet says:

    is there any reason that Oprah is running this network like it’s the mid-late 90s?

  20. Justin says:

    I liked it, but that’s only because I love Rosie. I’m fully aware that it needs work. Less time with the guests. Less rehab inspirational stuff. if she’s doing standup, it should feel a little more Rosie, and a little less family. I want the edgy View Rosie mixed with the Rosie from her old show.

  21. Jenn says:

    I was in the audience for her first test show in September and while that was good, this was a big improvement. Can’t wait to see what’s on the horizon once she gets back in the groove!

  22. jenn says:

    I like Rosie, but this was bad. Russell and Rosie were like yelling at each other as if being super loud made it more fun or a better show. It really was painful to watch. And the stage was hideous.

  23. Bobby says:

    Have a SEASON PASS for Rosie’s new show on my TiVo. I thought the first show was good and show a REALLY great side to Russell Brand and just how big his heart is. I think it’s surpasses many shows on the air currently and certainly is better than any “real housewife” or bachelor and bachelorette. GO ROSIE!!!

  24. Leah says:

    Terrible show – huge disappointment!!!
    Standup was not funny and audience portion seemed staged! Russell Brand was an awful, sloppy, crude guest.

  25. Jon says:

    She should go back on The View. That split screen screaming match with Elisabeth Hasselback is a classic.

  26. L says:

    I think we all know from the last few years that she is not a very nice person and that she can’t go back to pretending she is. She should have stayed away.

    • Em says:

      Really we all know this? Wow thanks for letting me know. You obviously base your opinion on what you have been told. Rosie is more real than other celebrities and doesn’t try to hide flaws. Get over it.

  27. rohoalert says:

    I am so happy that Ro is finally back on TV. My queen has returned ! I am a proud ROHO.

  28. Jake says:

    Will not last out the year.

  29. pss says:

    Show was good, announcer needs to be replaced. Horrible voice, like nails on a chalkboard. Who in thier right mind hired her??

  30. Lauren says:

    I missed it last night but I will definitely give her a chance. She had the best day-time show in the 90s. That was necessary viewing when we got home from school. I hope she brings a little bit of that flavor back.

  31. Sara says:

    Rosie already had a show. It didn’t survive.

  32. Carole says:

    I too watched every show of the old Rosie show, and watned so much for this to be a success. It was the first show I have watched on OWN.

    BUT, I did not like this show at all. Just because she has moved to Chicago, is not the time to trash New York. She may just need to go back there some day, and it won’t be pretty. She seemed very uncomfortable in her opening routine, and it went downhill from there.

    Oprah needs to know that she tried with Rosie, but just count this up to experience, and move on to another host.

    I was COMPLETELY DISAPPOINTED.

  33. mark says:

    What I want to know is who has the time to sit around and watch total strangers yammer on about their own lives for hours at a time? There’s hundreds of talk shows with all the SAME theme: celebrities pushing their movie/album/clothes/show or attention-desperate freaks talking of their freakiness.

  34. Bunny Dutton says:

    I liked the show. I like Rosie, to far left for my taste sometimes but i enjoy her. If she stays limited to the politics topics, she will do great. After all her new show isn’t the View.
    I do worry about the choice of chairs on her set. To comfy for sitting maybe watch a tv movie but not for guest to sit.

  35. Ilene says:

    I loved her old show and watched every episode. She has come a long way from being the Queen Of Nice. I can’t forget how she has changed for the worse as I watched her on The View. Her politics is out there because she was not able to shut up and keep it to herself. She did not allow a person to disagree with her. If you did you would get a Rosie mouth full. In 2007 she was voted the Most Annoying Celebrity. You can’t take that back and hide it by trying to act nice now. I like Oprah and feel she blew it this time. The first show was awful and I can’t forget the mean Rosie. I agree about watching Ellen. I love her and her show.

    • Justin says:

      Because all lesbians have to be compared. People say such foolish things, like your comment. Do you not realize that Rosie from her old talk show is the same Rosie that was on The View? It was a completely different platform. The Rosie you say you loved on her old show didn’t change in the way you think she did. It’s the same Rosie. And her politics are super liberal for the most part, which aren’t necessarily that “out there.”

  36. Mar says:

    Love Rosie and loved the old Rosie Show. Was very excited to know that she was going to be back and couldn’t wait for the first show. Unfortunately, I am very disappointed so far but will not give up on it just yet. Some of the reasons: terrible first guest, terrible announcer, not sure about that band, did I mention terrible announcer. Rosie is funny and I hope it gets better.

  37. Vicki says:

    We can’t tune in and expect this to be The Rosie O’Donnell show from previous years. We know more about Rosie now than we did then, when she was Queen of Nice. Maybe I don’t know what I want her to be, or what I expect her to be, as a current talk show host, if a talk show is what this is? Or was this a variety show? It’s too mixed up. I wanted so much to like this new show; I waited and waited for its debut…but I’m disappointed. I felt like she and Russell Brand were yelling rather than talking, I don’t get why the set is so dark and murky. Just didn’t gel with me. The voliume was weird and it wasn’t my television equipment. I thought Oprah’s appearance at the end was completely superfluous and inappropriate. I hate to criticize; I wanted to love this show.

  38. David says:

    The show sucked! Why isn’t she doing a desk and sitting and
    interviewing? Works much better…get some interesting guests, not
    the cheap ones!

    • mallery1214 says:

      Get a desk???? How the hell will a desk prove to aid in a better interview? lol, Serious? Personally I dont get the “desk” factor in or on any talk show. A desk does nothing more then to act as a wall between host and guest while hiding over half the body of any host. Not to mention the crap that is usually sitting on the desk that has no real use to the interview or show. Im sorry I just had to reply because your lust for a desk made me lmao while screamig WHY????????

  39. Pat Duke says:

    Dump the announcer. She is horrible.

  40. Mona says:

    Why did I think John McD was a fait accompli? I miss the repartee!

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