If the TV variety format weren't already dead, the ghastly ego trip of NBC's Thanksgiving-eve turkey Rosie Live would surely have killed it. Like the pie Alec Baldwin predictably pushed into Conan O'Brien's face that fell to the floor without sticking, the entire hour landed with a sickening, sad, ill-conceived thud. It felt like an off night at America's Got Talent, bookended by wobbly appearances from Liza Minnelli and Gloria Estefan, each forced to perform with the caterwauling host, Rosie O'Donnell.
The low point? There were so many. I ran to the kitchen to see how our sweet-potato casserole was progressing so I could escape Jane Krakowski's career-low stripper-ish ode to product placement, warbling new lyrics to Gypsy's "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" that listed all the giveaways the live audience would get, everything from a Vudu player to White Castle hamburgers and Crest Whitestrips (probably not a bad idea after gorging on those stomach bombs). But even that was a treat compared to Clay Aiken, arriving in his Spamalot costume, engaging in who-loves-who-more banter with Rosie, coyly dancing around the gay issue. "We're both Gayyy-briel Byrne fans," Rosie sorta joked.
Kathy Griffin bombed in a Nancy Grace-less impersonation. Rosie's opening monologue, larded with fat and boob jokes, stank of mothballs. Dancing boys wore food costumes and children were trotted out every so often in an attempt to make things appear wholesome. Harry Connick Jr., pitching his new Christmas CD in a Santa hat, didn't even get to complete a full number without Rosie intruding. And there were a handful of so-so novelty and musical acts, a la Ed Sullivan. But this wasn't a really big show. It was a really big bomb, an embarrassment and a pathetic eulogy for a form of TV that, like Rosie-the-eternal-fan, I grew up loving and still miss. (The comedy-variety spectacular reached its apex in The Carol Burnett Show, and somehow providence kept her well away from this botched revival.)
I miss the Rosie from the early days of her talk show, when she showcased the latest of Broadway and pop alongside show-biz legends with equal glee and reverence, before it became all about her. I was hoping Rosie Live would recapture some of that magic, but instead Rosie the egotist hogged the spotlight to everyone's discomfort and detriment. Far from bringing the variety show back to life, Rosie stuck a fork in it, drove the last nail into its coffin, broke its back, you pick the metaphor.