TV Review: Rosie Live

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Some say the popularity of "American Idol" and "Dancing with the Stars" is proof that variety shows are ripe for a primetime comeback. Of course, we'll never find out if the closest we get to the genre is "Rosie Live," which aired Wednesday night from the Little Shubert Theatre in New York.

NBC said "Rosie Live," starring Rosie O'Donnell, "will bring back the grand tradition of the variety show." It turned out, however, that "Rosie Live" was as much like real variety as speed dating is like real dating. The show was so packed with celebrity drive-bys that it could have been mistaken for the People's Choice awards.

The program started on an awkward note--O'Donnell's discussion of the shape provided by her undergarments--and never regained its equilibrium. It's 8 p.m. start signaled a family show but O'Donnell's monologue and running gags about her sexual preference gave off an entirely different vibe.

A few performances, such as those by Alanis Morissette, Ne-Yo and a couple of novelty acts, fit the "variety" theme. More often, though, the show consisted of O'Donnell's feigned surprise (and our pained reaction) as one guest after another entered through a prop door. By the time Rachael Ray beat the closing credits by mere seconds, the show looked as if it was inspired by the circus act in which clowns keep emerging from a tiny car.

Some guests promoted a project (Harry Connick Jr.'s Christmas album) or an NBC series (Alec Baldwin, Conan O'Brien) only to leave after half a song, some embarrassing dialogue or a quick pie to the face. Jane Krakowski, in the high point of the show, poked fun at all the goodies given to studio audiences with a strip number, "You Gotta Give Them Prizes," modeled after "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" in "Gypsy."

There were duets with Liza Minelli, Gloria Estefan and a troupe of little kids, all of which might have benefited from a couple more rehearsals. Clay Aiken showed up in his Spamalot costume for a lame joke about how much he and O'Donnell had in common, ending with, "We're both Ga...briel Byrne fans." Honestly, where are Waldorf and Statler when you really need them?

Universal Media Studios in association with KidRo Productions
Executive producers: Rosie O'Donnell, David Friedman;
Supervising producer: Janette Barber;
Senior producer: Liza Persky;
Producer: Alison Sandler;
Co-producer: Richard Jay;
Director: Alan Carter;
Writers: Janette Barber, Eric Kornfeld, Seth Rudetsky, Hunter Foster;
Production designer: Anton Goss;
Music producer: Lori E. Seid;
Lighting designer: Alan Adleman;
Host: Rosie O'Donnell
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