Word broke late on Friday that after less than a year, The Rosie Show—meant to be Rosie O’Donnell’s flagship talk show on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN network—was cancelled. If you’re reading that news with any interest, the numbers suggest that’s more likely because you know O’Donnell’s name than because you were actually watching it. The Rosie Show began life last year with about half a million viewers and went down from there, despite O’Donnell’s big name and track record in daytime.
The reasons? Pick one. For starters, there was the time slot—7 p.m., neither daytime nor late-night, and a time when much of Rosie’s audience may have been eating dinner—and the resulting implications for the format. The Rosie Show began as a hybrid, somewhere between the cheeriness of a daytime chat show and a late-night comedy show. Later, it was relaunched as more of a long-form studio interview show, to no avail—probably a mistake, because the most important relationship on her shows has been the one between her and her audience, not her and the interviewee.
Launching a new kind of format—basically, a dusk-time talk show—might have worked on an established channel, but OWN has struggled in the ratings since it was founded, and its daytime programming gave Rosie no real lead-in. O’Donnell was uprooted from New York to Chicago to host the show, and never seemed entirely comfortable. Then there were myriad tensions behind the scenes, with Rosie, OWN and various producers pulling the show in different directions, none of them successfully. (The backstage trainwreck is covered in detail by the Daily Beast and the Chicago Tribune.)
OWN ended up pulling the plug quickly, but it’s no clearer now what’s the plan for a network that thought it could create an Oprah Winfrey success without The Oprah Winfrey Show. I enjoyed The Rosie Show when it first started, and I have to have a soft spot in my heart for a show that wrote a song for me, but even that didn’t make it compelling enough for me to come back to regularly, and it looks like I’m not the only one. Sorry, Rosie; I’d write a goodbye song for you, but I’m guessing you’ve got that covered.