November 28, 2008

So everyone hated Rosie O'Donnell's attempt at bringing back the old-fashioned variety show.

I can tell from all the links about it on Drudge. Is it that people just don't like Rosie anymore, that no one wants variety shows anymore, or is it just the combination of Rosie and variety that's poison? Writing the headline to this post, I typo'd "old-fashioned variety sow," which seemed like a clue from my not-very-nice subconscious.

Only 5 million tuned in at all, so the problem can't have been the actual content of the show:
Segments included Kathy Griffin impersonating Nancy Grace, Alec Baldwin hitting Conan O'Brian with a pie, O'Donnell singing "City Lights" with Liza Minnelli and Jane Krakowski doing a product-placement-themed striptease for White Castle burgers and Crest Whitestrips.

Critics were not kind. The NY Times described it as "hokey comedy with an enemies list." TV Guide called it a "ghastly ego trip." And the LA Times asked, "Rosie, what on earth were you thinking?"
That NYT review -- from Alessandra Stanley -- came after the show aired. So it seems the concept was off-putting enough to people, but if hadn't been, they'd have found the execution deadly. Per Stanley:
In between skits, celebrity cameos and hokey novelty acts, the legendarily thin-skinned Ms. O'Donnell found time to take potshots at some of her favorite targets, including Donald Trump, Nancy Grace and Bill O'Reilly....

Ms. O'Donnell's self-referential swats at detractors were light, but they clashed with the context, lending a hard, contemporary edge to what was intended to be a corny, heartfelt homage to variety shows of yesteryear, like "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" and "The Carol Burnett Show."...
It's not easy to be the brilliant Ms. Burnett, and you should never, never underestimate what constitutes the greatness that is Cher.

From the L.A. Times:
For weeks now NBC has seduced and tantalized with the promise of a cross between Carol Burnett and “Sonny and Cher.” And this is what we get? Rosie in a glitter top having Baldwin speak into her cleavage and making jokes about her weight? Someone get a hold of Tim Conaway, stat.
Tim Conaway? I guess the L.A. Times doesn't really spend much time reminiscing about the old Carol Burnett show.

Joe Gandelman blogs:
If you’re a student of show biz history, there are books that detail the careers of Burnett, Sullivan, and Martin that chronicle the thought and care that went into the preparation of their shows and what they were trying to do on them....

But what you don’t read as much about are the many variety shows that hideously flopped over the past 50 years and the performers who either hit a dead end and didn’t do as well on weekly TV series as they did in other venues: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. Jerry Lewis and a host of other. Every attempt at a variety show didn’t click: a huge number of shows noisily bombed....

So the variety show format isn’t dead. It could still be revived– with the right performer who isn’t controversial, with careful thought, and with packaging and production values more akin to a Vegas or cruise style variety show than a celebrity vanity production with a bunch of celebrities instead of high-powered talent of its era.
Any ideas as to who could fit that role? Celebrities are so awful these days. Who wants to see how they behave presenting other celebrities?

We'd rather watch another season of "American Idol," with third-rate music and annoying youngsters who only want to become the celebrities who have become too loathsome to watch. At least we get to see "American Idol" contestants judged and insulted for thinking they are much good. Maybe the old variety format could live again with a panel of judges or some sort of on-screen vote tally as we phone in and tell them they're nowhere near as good as they think they are.

94 comments:

Freeman Hunt said...

Maybe it would work if they put in the legwork to find very talented people who aren't very big names and had an eminently likable host like Ellen.

Darcy said...

I used to really like Rosie. I find her so hard and annoying now.
Thin-skinned is a perfect description of her. Seemingly bitter would be another.

I adore Ellen, Freeman Hunt. I think a variety show hosted by Ellen would probably be very entertaining.

The Drill SGT said...

Is it that people just don't like Rosie anymore, that no one wants variety shows anymore,

Both

bill said...

How about Neil Patrick Harris? He does drama, comedy, can sing and dance, and is an excellent host. He also does magic, which he demonstrated as he hosted the World Magic Awards on Wednesday.

Watching Neil Patrick Harris and Kristin Chenoweth annnounce the Emmy nominees, someone should just give them their own variety show.

Oligonicella said...

I wouldn't watch Rosie try to melt steel with fire.

ricpic said...

What people can't stand is the arch ironic stance that seems to be de riguer in the entertainment industry today because they think it indicates hipness, coolness. A variety show that believed in being a variety show, that didn't view itself askance, in other words a square variety show would be a big success if it were ever tried. Prediction: it will be tried and it will be a success and everyone will be shocked! shocked! that there's still money to be made in squaresville.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

They do this type of show all day, every day in Branson and Pigeon Forge, plus two shows on Saturday!

Dolly Parton could have shown her how it's done...

Lawgiver said...

I would watch Rosie celebrity boxing.

Rosie vs The Donald

Rosie vs Nancy Grace

Rosie vs a blind-folded, one-hand-tied-behind-his-back Bill ORielly

All proceeds to charity, do it for the children.

Trooper York said...

Bill is absolutely right. Doogie Howser would be...wait for it....awesome....and how could you not like that little pixie Kristin Chenoweth...they would be perfect.

Trooper York said...

You know would be great. Trace Adkins. I saw his recent special on his trip to Irag and he is one cool dude. He could do a variety show just like Johnny Cash did.

And you know I bet Usher would be great too. He seems like a very talented guy.

BJM said...

Rosie's inner demons killed her career. She lost her sense of humor about herself, which was a huge part of her appeal. Rosie stopped being the class clown and became the angry comic-on-a-mission. The ridiculous public feuding and Truther nonsense finished her off.

American's love a second act and/or a comeback so she may yet redeem herself, but this show was not it. I Tivo'd it and could only bear a few minutes before hitting delete.

Chip Ahoy said...

Sow. Not-very-nice subconscious. Ha ha ha.

Oh, my God, this has started out to be a very funny day.

MadisonMan said...

So was Rosie sitting on a Piano singing She was a scamp, a camp and a bit of a tramp, she was a V A M P -- vamp?

Jim said...

I was a Rosie show watcher from way, way back. She tended to be cheerful and only a little vindictive. The helicopter incident with Donny Osmond, she handled with grace and humor.

Over time, she really appeared to get angrier and angrier -- maybe it was the election of Bush that did it to her.

I tuned in to watch the first few minutes; the opening monologue was boring and not very funny. I'm not surprised by the "two words: Barack Obama" moment, but really --it's only accessible to half the country.

I hate to admit it, while I'm at it, but the years have not been kind to her.

William said...

In all the hustle and bustle this time of the year we tend to forget the many small things we have to be grateful for. The fact that Rosie's show tanked is, perhaps, of little note, but world peace is built on small, incremental steps such as this. The fact that five million people wished to see her in a glitter top is deeply disturbing, and much work needs to be done to cleanse the American soul. Still, this is a positive step forward.

bill said...

Or give Paula Poundstone back her variety show. Loved that. Though considering it was canceled after two episodes not many shared my opinion.

Awesome said...

I initially read "Alec Baldwin hitting Conan O'Brian with a pipe", and thought "Damn, I'm sorry I missed that!"

Guesst said...

Maybe it has to do with the line-up.

They aren't A-list.
They aren't funny anymore, or greatly talented.
Their careers are laced with radical left-wing comments, insulting the President, rightwing pundits, and about half the country.
They aren't entertainers known for performing in such venues.

Nobody wants to watch a bunch of dumbass D-listers ham it up when it suits them.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

The problem with entertainers and so called entertainment is that they have an agenda that they want to push on the audience.

What made variety shows like the Carol Burnette Show and comedies like 3rd Rock From the Sun or WKRP Cinncinatti work was that they had no political agenda. The shows were all about human foibles, the things that make us laugh, the irony of being human. Watch these shows and you will rarely if ever see any political or agenda driven commentary. They are timeless and they are funny

There are several shows that we just quit watching durring the last 8 years of BDS. Boston Legal. It started out as an offshoot of The Practice, a show that we enjoyed, however the writers could not let even one episode of Boston Legal go by without a clumsy pot shot at the administration or at conservatives in general or trying to hammer home an agenda such as how mean people are to teh gays etc. It was insulting to the intellegence and NOT entertaining.

I agree with Freeman. Ellen Degeneris could probably host a fun and entertaining show. If I want to be propogandized I'll listen to Rush or watch MSNBC.

Bissage said...

I have to admit I never paid all that much attention to Rosie O’Donnell.

Over the years I’ve seen a few bits from her sitcom and I thought she and John Goodman made a pretty good team, although I’ll never understand what she saw in Tom Arnold.

Isn’t she supposed to be a lesbian or something?

Anyway, I’m glad to see she’s still hanging in there, giving it her all, struggling for fame and fortune.

Good for her!

Keep on plugging away, there, kiddo!

Someday, you’ll make it big!

I just know it!

SteveR said...

The demographic for a potentially successful variety show, I would think, is largely made up of people she treats like idiots.

And as was pointed out, most variety shows were not good. Takes talent and a lot of hard work to start with.

Jeff with one 'f' said...

Hee-Haw was the last great variety show. Fact!

rcocean said...

Variety shows are a tough sell, and have been for 30 years. You need:

1) An incredibly talented and likable lead (Dean Martin, Carol, Cher(?), etc)

2) Funny comic support (Conway and Harvey K).

3) Great writing and Good songs.

4) Guest stars people care about.
Past shows gave us a chance to see popular stars. John Wayne, Sinatra, Julie Andrews, Paul Newman, etc.

Rosie's show had none of these.

And the "SOW" remark. Ha Ha.

Yachira said...

Rosie O'Donnell is a revolting pig, without a single saving grace that I can discern.

Sofa King said...

Steve Martin would be an awesome MC, I think. He can do stand up, he can sing and dance, he plays a hysterical straight man, he can also do physical comedy, he somehow has the ability to "play" mean without being mean.

J Lee said...

Back in the mid-1970s, with the success of Monday Night Football and the ratings for boxing during the Ali years, a poll showed that ABC sportscaster Howard Cosell was both the most liked and the most hated sportscaster on network TV. And ABC entertainment execs and sports division president Roone Arledge took that as a go-ahead to create a live Saturday night variety show with Howard as the host (to the point they even battled and won out over NBC for the name "Saturday Night Live" when both shows debuted in the fall of 1975).

The problem was many of the people who said they liked Cosell more than any other sportscaster did so because they couldn't remember the name of any other sportscaster off the top of their heads, while the people who hated him really hated him, and if they tuned in to watch his other shows, it was because of the football game or the fight, not because of the announcer. NBC made the same mistake here of thinking name recognition = ratings, even for a person who has built up so many negative vibes among the viewing public over the past nine years you already had half the potential viewing audience that would never watch the show.

Add to that the fact that she couldn't put down either her politics or her public feuds even during her in-show monologues; and her guest line-up, which seemed designed to please only a small slice of the American public (did they really think hyping this group of celebs for two straight weeks on Sunday Night Football was going to lure in NFL fans?), and here's what you get -- a perpetually belligerent host with a guest star lineup targeting mainly the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Santa Monica and the Chelsea and Castro districts demographic. No wonder the show tied for dead last in Wednesday's ratings.

Sofa King said...

Oh and Steve Martin can also play the banjo!

Trooper York said...

NBC is going to find that a lot of these uber-liberals that they want to put on TV are not as popular as they think they are in real life.

But I hope they put more and more of them on in the hopes of driving the Nothing But Commies network further into the toilet.

I look forward to the Cindy Sheehan Hour of Power and the Castro Brothers Comedy hour. Providing Fidel feels up to it.

AllenS said...

I watched Steve Martin use a dog whistle as a harmonica to play some song. Hilarious!

Trooper York said...

Oh and Tina Fey is a mean spirited twat.

Sorry Simon.

Brian O'Connell said...

Sabado Gigante still pulls in viewers. Wikipedia tells me it's made in Miami, so the US variety show isn't quite dead. :)

Speaking of Miami, anyone remember Jackie Gleason's variety show? That was kind of good.

Oh, and Ellen is having a variety special on TBS tomorrow night.

Big Mike said...

Ah, Bissage, that was Roseanne Barr, not Rosie O'Donnell.

I suspect that the right variety show with the right host could still make it, but to do the show they'd need A-list acts (or no worse than B) but these people already make a lot of money in Vegas (or Branson, MO) and scarcely need the add'l exposure.

I personally don't like Rosie at all. She has subordinated whatever tincture of talent she may once have had to her never-ending rage that the world doesn't work the way she thinks it should work.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Oh and Tina Fey is a mean spirited twat..

You got that completely backwards. She's self effacing, charming, and hilarious.

People don't watch TV anymore, so I can't say that any host would make a difference or draw an audience. The host would have to be someone extremely controversial...and Rosie isn't controversial.

Hey maybe Sarah Palin is available to play the flute and shoot wolves. That's a variety show for ya...and the numbers would be through the roof...guaranteed.

Trooper York said...

Not true Zach; she is a gold plated phony. You know why she wrote Mean Girls, because that is what she is man. It just that she hates everyone that lives between the Upper West Side and Hollywood. The contempt for those people clinging to their guns and religion just drips off her boney ass. They are not in her fraternity. But hey that’s ok. She has her audience I guess. It’s just with all of her big deal guest stars the ratings still suck. You see it’s not a good thing to despise most of your audience.

Trooper York said...

The audience being people who watch over the air non-cable TV.

Host with the Most said...

Just 4 years ago CBS had on Carol Burnett and the regulars from her Variety Show in a 2 hour reunion show.

It was the highest rated TV Entertainment special in 18 years. Les Moonves and CBS immediately offered Burnett another slot for a regular variety show, at her terms, at whatever price. She turned them down because of the incredible amount of work that goes onto making a variety show "look effortlessly" good.

So, a variety show in this day and age could definitely succeed, but it definitely is in need of exceptional talent (bill's suggestion above is a great one). Rosie O'Donnell was once that sort of person. But she squandered the good will of her audience(s) by choosing to have enemies rather than a wider world of friends.

Sad.

Darcy said...

I agree with the comment on Fey coming off as mean spirited. This last election season was enough to turn me away as a fan. She's obviously enormously talented, though.

Darcy said...

LOL, Trooper! I hadn't even read your comment and the thought of using "boney ass" ran through my mind as well while composing mine.

Yup. Well said.

Host with the Most said...

Trooper,

I don't agree with Tina Fey's politics, but I already know that when I choose to watch her. She is wildly talented and deserves her kudos.

Fey successes:

30 Rock is the funniest show on TV now (well, they have been reaching a little lately).

And Mean Girls was an excellent film.


Fey not-so-much:

Her Weekend Update segments when she was on Saturday Night Live. You had to agree with her politics there to enjoy any of it.

Baby Mama. 'Nuff said.

Host with the Most said...

Oh, and Ann,

It's Tim Conway.

Zachary Paul Sire said...

Trooper, your stereotypes about Fey are, well, stereotypes. Just because she's obviously "liberal," surrounds herself with "educated" people, and made fun of Sarah Palin, you automatically assume she's not part of Real America? Come on. What evidence is there of her not caring about middle America?

She in fact can't stand Hollywood and "the elite." She was on Howard Stern a while ago trashing everyone from Paris Hilton to Madonna.

Bissage said...

Wait a minute . . .

Roseanne Barr’s a lesbian?

I thought she was sort of Jewish.

Well anyway . . . that’s what Tim Conaway told me.

** scratches head **

Pogo said...

I think they should make a variety show about Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew. Tim Conaway looks messed up in it, but it'd sure be fun to see him flop around during a slurred rendition of New York, New York.

James Wigderson said...

Variety show host? Two words: Ben Stein.

Trooper York said...

Unfortunately I am overly familiar with Ms Fey's work. In Thirty Rock the figure of Kenneth the naive usher and the mocking of places like Cleveland (where the boyfriend lawyer guy was from) is part and parcel with the contempt she feels for people in Jesus land. But that's okay, that's her shtick. Smartass urban girl who lambastes the hicks. Moved to New York and is now more New York than people that were born and raised there. What really pissed me off was the dumping on her ex-boyfriend the Beeper King guy. He was a typical outer borough white ethnic guy who they delighted in trashing. I mean the guy even forgave her for aborting him.

Anyway I used to enjoy some of her stuff but her recent over the top political stuff just turned me off to the point I won't watch her show anymore. Fey and people like Rosie don’t want people like me in their audience. They only want the hipster dofus types not as you say “regular guys.” I know the Hollywood assholes love the show since they gave them all the Emmy’s. That will make it even more fun when it gets canceled.

Chip Ahoy said...

This Carol Burnett of which you speak.

* YouTube's Carol Burnett *

Christy said...

Jeff /one F, Dolly already tried the variety show and it was a flop. She complained that the network scheduled it on Sunday night when her fan base was in church. I remember she had one segment with her on a date with the male star of the week. Embarrassing to watch. And it didn't improve over the few weeks it was on.

Fresh Air did a charming interview with Tina Fey about her Palin bits. Not mocking at all imho.

No one is comfortable with the out of control anger and irrationality that is Rosie O'Donnell.

Lawgiver said...

This just in, the NYGs sign Tina Fey to replace injured running back Brandon Jacobs. Says head coach and part time lover Tom Coughlin, "Her boney ass will be as hard to tackle as a midget porcupine."

fivewheels said...

A host/ess of such a show probably does require a daunting skill set. Comic timing, acting ability, musical ability -- plus, these days, pre-existing celebrity cachet. And a comparably talented partner would be nice.

I nominate as the next Sonny and Cher, Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick.

From Inwood said...

TY

You have it about right. Too many entertainers in NYC & Hollywood are out of touch. They think that they can survive on a "Bush is a poopyhead" shtick since it works with their peers.

I could do a skit on my 2003 all-nighter visit to the Emergency Room in NY Hospital on the Sat Nite between XMAS & New Years. Or how my wife had to sit on top of a galvanized garbage can while waiting for my late sister to be seen in the Beth Israel Emergency room. But that would be un-PC, I guess.

And the establishment Comedic World doesn't see the satire. which writes itself, in the NYT straight-face story, set forth in another Althouse thread, about the 21st Century Scrooge where "come Christmas… a gregarious little girl … will receive the play kitchen and the Elmo doll she wants. But her mother… will go without the designer jeans she covets this season."
Even the commenters with their Rush (Rush L, that is) Derangement Syndrome should realize that he is dead on funny about PC politicans. Oh, I get it Bob KKK Byrd is off limits. Rush's satirical songs are worthy of Carol Burnettaway.

And look at the unfunny, actually megalomaniacal rant of David Letterman when McCain, gasp, stood him up.

Who watches these guys?

Host With The Most

I think that Prof A made it clear that she knows that "Conaway" went thataway.

Hey, there's also Tom Conway, George Sanders' brother, but I show my age.

To repeat myself, the NYT reporters don't know anything about Tanglewood & 120th St on the UWS & 96th St on the UES & anything between the East River & The Hamptons. It constantly places my old Inwood in Da Bronx; that is, when it doesn't confuse it with Inwood, L.I.

Recently it had an article on the Bleak House subway, a/k/a the Second Avenue subway, which it referred to as the "Number 2 train". Of course the Number 2 train runs down B'way.

Simon said...

Trooper York said...
"Oh and Tina Fey is a mean spirited twat. ¶ Sorry Simon."

Duly noted, and I agree that she probably does have the inbuilt liberal contempt for flyover country. Nevertheless, lean towards Zach on this much: "She's self effacing, charming, and hilarious." Not to mention really, really hot. Besides, let's say that she does look down on conservatives: for my purposes, that's not necessarily a turnoff. ;)

I can't even agree with HwtM that one had to agree with her politics to enjoy her Weekend Update turn. The week that Justice Alito was concerned, the first item was predictably scathing, but it was the funniest thing I saw during the entire confirmation process for either of Bush's nominees. It takes a rare gift to do nakedly partisan political humor in a way that's still funny to people on the wrong side of it, but Fey made it work. Usually. (30 Rock is hilarious, and Alec Baldwin - not someone known for sharing my political views off-set, it must be said - is absolutely brilliant.)

From Inwood said...

Hey

Think there'll be a satire by Rosie on Charlie Rangel?

Ah the joys of congressmen’s angles,

Made even more fun when they’re Rangel’s.

Re constituents, no care,

The votes always there,

So no need for any untangles.

UWS guy said...

Colbert Christmas I thought was pretty good.

Doesn't that count as a "variety" show?

Trooper York said...

Well that’s what I mean From Inwood. To the likes of Fey and her ilk, Inwood, or Carnasie or Stapleton or Corona, or Sunset Park or Bushwick might as well be in Iowa. They have no idea about what the city is like. The average working Joe driving a delivery truck in the city meets and interacts and makes friends with more different and diverse people in a week than these hipster dofous douche bags do in a year. They make me sick.

I piss in their soup.

Host with the Most said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lorelei Leigh said...

Moved to New York and is now more New York than people that were born and raised there.

I find this to be pretty generally true. I lived in NYC for five years, and the people I encountered there who were most like you describe are the ones who moved there from somewhere else.

I still like Tina Fey, though.

Host with the Most said...

(30 Rock is hilarious, and Alec Baldwin - not someone known for sharing my political views off-set, it must be said - is absolutely brilliant.)

Completely agree.

Host with the Most said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Host with the Most said...

Trooper,

Re: 30 Rock and it's "usher", Kenneth:

As any semi-regular reader here knows, I stand second to no one in my detestation of Hollywood and the Main Stream Medias constant depiction of Christians - particularly evangelicals - as stupid and/or evil.

But the character of Kenneth on 30 Rock is actually written as someone of integrity and optimism. A little simple-minded perhaps, but every character on the show represents someone with major issues as their back story. A recent episode had the Alec Baldwin character constantly disbelieving the simple integrity of Kenneth in not stealing cable. While the episode ended with a slightly compromised Kenneth, he still came off looking like the hero. Good stuff.

Another media evangelical Christian character - Ned Flanders of the Simpsons - also comes off always looking better than the rest of the Springfield population. In fact, in the Simpsons movie from last year, the only character to remain untainted in the entire film was Ned Flanders. The writers have been on record as saying that they have become so attached to Flanders goodness that they can't even see themselves compromising that in the future.

Fascinating.

Kirk Parker said...

"A variety show that believed in being a variety show... would be a big success"

Maybe. Having recently seen Stuart McLean's traveling rendition of The Vinyl Cafe when it came to Seattle, maybe you are right. What a completely appealing show, and don't say "But it's radio"--the live show on stage is visual, and at the time he was travelling with Jim Byrnes and Dala as his musical acts. Byrnes is a totally photogenic grizzled old blues guy, and as for Dala, they are cute cute CUTE and wonderful musicians. Would have made excellent TV.

Trooper York said...

Hey I am not saying you can't enjoy them if you want. I just can't buy into their contempt for regular people who always are condescended to like they are morons. Kenneth is basically ridiculed and treated as a dumb naive freak. Sort of a retarded child who they treat like a pet. That’s the subtext. People who aren’t hip liberals should be thought of as simple minded fools.

But by all means enjoy the boney skank with the twisted lip if that is what floats your boat. Some commies are funny I suppose. I heard that Mao and Cho En-Lai used to do a great “Who’s on First” back in the fifties. They were some funny commies.

Trooper York said...

Oh and the reason why so many more people hate Rosie than Tina Fey is that Rosie is chubby. It's easy to hate the chubby girl. They have the same world view, it justs makes you feel better to hate the big girl.

You bigots.

Simon said...

Trooper York said...
"Kenneth is basically ridiculed and treated as a dumb naive freak. Sort of a retarded child who they treat like a pet. That’s the subtext. People who aren’t hip liberals should be thought of as simple minded fools."

We could assume that Kenneth is an avatar for regular folk, and ridicule of him is intended to be a vehicle for ridiculing them. Why, then, not apply the same approach with other characters? It's believable to thinkt that Jack is intended as an avatar for corporate conservatives, and ridicule of him is intended to be ridicule of them - but then, we would have to assume that Tracey is intended to be an avatar for a particular (predominantly African-American) urban subculture, and a vehicle for ridiculing it, too. Tracey, too, is portrayed as a simple-minded fool even though there's a 97% chance that he's a hip Obama-voting liberal.

And, come to think of it, the show's signature hip liberal, Liz, is portrayed - albeit sympathetically - as a walking disaster.

You're wrong - and I assume being humorous - about the weight issue, at least for me, but I'll concede that I might well be less favorably-inclined towards Fey if I wasn't attracted to her. But I'm not in the business of self-psychoanalysis. :)

Christy said...

I totally fell in love with Jim Byrnes when he was Ken Wahl's handler on "Wiseguy." Loved him in "Highlander," too.

Trooper, my read on Kenneth is that he is the heart of the show, the one that keeps everyone grounded. Fascinating how we react so differently to the character.

Joe said...

I'm continually surprised that anyone finds "30 Rock" even remotely funny. It's one of the least humorous shows I've ever seen. It doesn't help any that Alec Baldwin and Tina Fey are among the most smug actors working today.

As for Rosie O'Donnell; she simply isn't funny--she's mean. On top of that, she created a horrible line up of guests who think they are funny and talented, but mostly aren't. On top of that, Rosie and several of her guests are rabid angry liberals and who the hell wants to see that?

(Was watching a comedy repeat last night from about 2001. In the middle of an otherwise very funny scene, hey had one line Bush joke. Like too much referential humor, especially political, it was so contemporary, the joke fell flat and almost ruined the scene.)

Host with the Most said...

If we're talking about shows here:

I don't get:

Everybody Loves Raymond.

Gave it a fair shot: watched full episodes 3 times over several years.

Same thing every show:

Raymond: OOOOOOOOh! AAAAAAAAAAh!
Brother: Smarmy delivery of something barely understandable.
Mother: WHAT?
Father: Wisecrack about what Mother just said.
Wife: Geeeeeez!
The end.

Same thing every damn week.


TROOPER,

All of the CSI's, NCI's, Without a Trace, Cold Case, et al: I hate them. And all of the Law and Order's. I hate them all.

Reason: Self-righteous, smarmy cops.

I guess I take smarminess better when it's in a comedy.


AND, I never got Designing Women. Or Murphy Brown. What was up with them?

I guess that

blake said...

LOtta good points.

To underscore: Most shows will fail. Just sheer odds are against them being considered, being produced, having a successful pilot, and even if they make it on the air they're most likely going to fail.

I daresay any longtime TV watchers have shows they loved that didn't make it to the magic three year mark. Though these days, with DVDs, you can get a bundle with a half-run (see "Police Squad").

I think Sci-Fi did a thing where they put in a single timeslot all the sci-fi shows that had only a pilot, or a half/full season. They had a lot of material.

So, just out of the box, I'd be willing to bet that any given show will fail. And 5-million is only slightly worse than Paula Poundstone did (I loved that show) which, given 15 years of TV audience attrition isn't too bad.

But Rosie killed her comedy persona thoroughly. She was never Carlin or Maher, she was a pop-culture fluff. She was in that basically post-boomer, afterschool-special, latchkey generation--way too much TV--who was unabashedly in love with the corniness of the era.

That's why her daytime talk show worked at first.

But that's a fragile thing, totally incompatible with, say, hosting "The View" which perhaps should be (but isn't) in that corny '70s style.

Also, I think y'all are looking in the wrong place for future variety shows. Everybody mentioned so far is old. Think Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, stuff like that.

It may not be someone who's a "star" on those channels, but it'll be from the kids who are putting in the time and taking it seriously.

Carol Burnett was mid-30s, Donny and Marie were teenagers, Andy Williams was in his 30s, etc. You have this combination of "does the 18-39 group want to watch old people?" with "does a guy in his 60s, like Steve Martin, really want to bust his hump putting together a weekly variety show?"

Trooper York said...

Television is a true reflection of American Society. It is much closer to the pulse of our country than a lot of other leading indicators. And it goes in cycles. The stupid dad, smart mom, smart mouth kid’s sitcom of which Everybody Loves Raymond is a primo example used to dominate the airwaves. The police procedural which is the CSI/law and order shows have replaced the detective shows like Mannix, Magnum PI and Barnaby Jones or the action police shows like Starsky and Hutch and NYPD Blue. Doctor shows are winding down to the point where they are just really soap operas with sick people. Reality shows have become the bread and butter of the entertainment world.

At one time westerns dominated. Then variety shows. Now it is strictly cops procedurals and doctor soap opera shows with a few sitcoms sprinkled in. Inane reality shows complete the mix. Game shows and soap operas which were once dominant in day time and overlapped into prime time and are now a slowly dying breed.

I think the next few television seasons will be a lot like the early seventies when liberal themed sitcoms like All in the Family, Maude, Good Times, Sanford and Son and Mash were dominant, all of which were served up to indoctrinate a very liberal point of view. Thirty Rock, The New Adventures of Old Christine, How I Met Your Mother and Two and a Half Men are arguably doing the same thing today. Plenty more will be coming out since Hollywood feels that an ultra –liberal vibe is out there in the countryside. The mom and dad and kids sitcoms are a mostly going to be a thing of past except for certain black sitcoms like House of Payne on TBS. So don’t expect much in the way of “traditional” sitcoms on the main broadcast and cable channels. You might find one or two here or there but they will be few and far between. We are in for some cobbled together multicultural politically correct boring comedies that will “teach” us like a four year long after school special.

It is going to suck. Big time.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

I think the next few television seasons will be a lot like the early seventies when liberal themed sitcoms

It is going to suck. Big time


Yes it is. That's why I play on line MMORPGs.

Also I have never heard of much less veiwed 30 rock. Never have seen Survivor or any other reality (snark) based type of show.

bill said...

Funniest show on right now is "30 Rock."

Second funniest is "Whatever, Martha."

Trooper York said...

I think you have to watch the "Flavor of Love" Dust Bunny Queen.

It has a lot to do with recipes like your blog.

Hot Chocolate!

Michael_H said...

Here's why I should be selected to be CEO of NBC Entertainment:

Give Jay Leno a prime time variety show to host.

It'll be a hit, and will remove the shame of NBC kicking him to the curb in January.

I want cash, not stock options. Just plenty of cash.

Mark O said...

Rosie is so bad, she doesn't even suck.

jdeeripper said...

Martin Short is a one man variety show.

Same with Steve Martin.

Pee Wee Herman had a show but I don't know if that counts.

Trooper York said...

I think the funniest show on TV right now is Testees.

It's a show about these two slacker roommate guys who are broke and sign up with a big corporation to let them do medical experiments on them for money.

The one where they erase their memories will make you pee your pants.

rcocean said...

JD,

Thanks for the clip on Steve Martin. He could really tap dance! I didn't know that.

Michael_H said...

Rosie is so bad, she doesn't even suck.

That has been the rumor for some years. She may be from Lebanon, I hear....not that there's anything wrong with that.

Fatmouse said...

For all the Fey lovers, just remember that "self effacing" != "not an asshole."

In fact, tossing in an occasional weak insult at yourself is a common tactic amongst cowards to keep people from attacking them for their insults towards others. You remember Joel Stein, right? Right?

Jeremy said...

I actually used to watch her talk show sometimes. It was nice. She came off as a friendly, likable person.

Now she seems very very mean spirited and bitter. And far too political. And dumb.

Sort of a female Rush Limbaugh.

Kevin said...

Trooper York said...

The audience being people who watch over the air non-cable TV.

Er, yeah. Problem is that's a fickle audience. Just when they tune in, the shift changes in the nursing home and the new girl changes the channel.

Jack Okie said...

It was a while ago, but don't leave out the Ed Sullivan show. Sullivan was a great subject for impersonators; Gabe Kaplan as Sullivan hosting his show while drunk was priceless.

Carol Burnett's show worked because of her star power and brilliant cast. I like Ellen, but wonder if she could pull off a whole season.

blake said...

I think "star power" may not be the right phrase. She had more--lots more--talent than fame when she started her show. And the variety show was the perfect vehicle, with great supporting talent.

Had Desilu not taken a chance on her, she'd never have the fame she ultimately attained.

cheerful iconoclast said...

You know who would be great at hosting a variety show?

Lucy Lawless.

Yes, that Lucy Lawless, the one who once played Xena. She can sing and dance at least passably well; she loves doing comedy and she actually is pretty funny, and she doesn't mind dressing up in unflattering looks.

Plus, she could start the show by doing the Xena cry, just like Carol Burnett used to do the Tarzan yell.

JBlog said...

Is it that people just don't like Rosie anymore,...?

Yep, you can stop right there. Unlikeable, unfunny, unwatchable.

As to the variety show itself, I do think it has potential for a comeback. If you look at shows like America's Got Talent, it's basically a variety show combined with a contest -- a rehash of Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour (whoa, seriously dating myself here).

I think with all the interest in variety-type acts through the current contest format-- singing shows, dancing shows, stand-up comedy shows -- with the right mix of talent and the right host, this format could make a comeback.

Key words there: the right mix of talent and the right host.

Skipper50 said...

Not complicated. Rosie's repulsive (as a personality, not necessarily physically). I'd love a good variety show, but keep it entertaining, and nothing else.

RebeccaH said...

I don't like Rosie anymore. 'Nuff said.

CherkyB said...

Maybe the old variety format could live again with a panel of judges or some sort of on-screen vote tally as we phone in and tell them they're nowhere near as good as they think they are.

Reinventing The Gong Show?

blake said...

"The Gong Show" had a run this fall on Comedy Central.

I'm not sure it works in this day and age. There are the simultaneous factors of a severely reduced cachet for being on national TV, a much more vulgar society, and shorter attention span.

Locomotive Breath said...

The "boney [sic] ass" line is ripped off from the movie "Working Girl". If you're going to insult someone, try, at least, to be original.

Tess McGill: [to Katherine] Look, you, maybe you've got everyone around here fooled with this saint act you have going, but do not ever speak to me again like we don't know what really happened, you got me?

Katherine Parker: Tess, this is business. Let's just bury the hatchet, okay?

Tess McGill: You know where you can bury your hatchet? Now get your bony ass outta my sight!


And for the record, Tina Fey and 30 Rock are funny as hell. I dare you to to find a show that's been able to get away with a "to a white woman, all black men look alike" gag.

I agree that Kenneth is made fun of by the characters that don't understand him but find me anywhere else on TV a portrayal of the dilemmas faced by a moral man living in an amoral world. Ned Flanders, being animated, doesn't count really.

Trooper York said...

Hey Locomotive Breath do you have greasy fingers smearing shabby clothes.

Anybody who names himself after a third rate Jethro Tull song should not bitch about anybodies originality.

Boney ass is what you talk about with any skinny smart mouth bitch like Tina Fey. What are you supposed to do, always come up with a new insult when an old one will do just as well? Should we call her an isosceles trapezoid twat? Skeletal scievey shrew? Angular asswipe? Macilent mope? Cadaverous Cunt?

I was trying to tone it down.

If you have to whack it to a boney bitch why not do it to Madonna? I hear she’s available these days. And she is a lot funnier than Tina Fey.

That fake British accent just makes me laugh.

Simon said...

No one will be surprised to learn that Rosie has already been cancelled.

Andrew Freeman said...

Let's be honest. Nobody wants to watch an angry comic of any personal persuasion hosting a live variety show. Not an angry Regis Philbin,
an angry Carol Burnett or even an angry Rush Limbaugh. Put your politics and sexual preferences on the shelf for 42 minutes and have some fun! Also, don't make the program such an NBC promotional machine. Why not pick some actual surprising guests?

Rosie, you can recapture "the funny" you were blessed with. Drop the Sam Kinnison tude and share your comedic gifts with the audience again.

blake said...

I loved watching Sam Kinnison.

And Regis Philbin is angry all the time.

But their anger is (or was) less, let's say, insane. And part of their schtick.

Locomotive Breath said...

always come up with a new insult

Ding, ding, ding. We have a winner.