Cancellation of ‘The Rosie Show’ Shows That Rosie and Oprah Were a Mismatch

Rosie O'Donnell and Oprah Winfrey on OWN (Photos: Getty Images)

Depending on what account you read, the demise of “The Rosie Show” after five low-rated months on Oprah Winfrey‘s OWN network was either due to Rosie O’Donnell being too caustic and unable to make up her mind about what she wanted to do with her show, or it was a case of a staff who was so used to Oprah’s way of doing things that they weren’t flexible enough to work with Rosie. Either way, the marriage of Oprah and Rosie seemed like an odd one from the beginning, with their opposite on-air personalities being the least of the conflicts.

First, as much respect Rosie had for Oprah, she had to know that giving up on an NBC syndicated daytime deal for what Oprah was offering was, to say the least, a big risk. According to a report at The Daily Beast, she took the job at the last second because she felt she’d have a say in what her show would be like. But immediately, OWN asked her to host her show from Oprah’s old Chicago studio, which the New York stalwart must have had to swallow hard to do.

Don’t get us wrong, we love Chicago. But it’s tough to get big-time guests to come on your show out there when you’re anyone but Oprah, and Rosie definitely had problems in that department, especially after going from a comedy/variety format to a one-on-one interview format in January. That move, according to the Beast, was fueled by Rosie’s appearance in the more intimate environment of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live, as well as a desire by OWN to cut costs.

It also seemed like signs of the difficult Rosie were popping up, as the Beast’s article details incidents where she got into a shouting match with a publicist and embarrassed a longtime Harpo director in front of the staff. But that could have been just a case of a host under pressure, in a city she didn’t want to live in, doing a format she was no longer comfortable with. “It was such a f——g hellhole,” one staff member told The Daily Beast.

Deadline’s analysis of why Rosie and OWN didn’t match was more evenhanded in its blame, with OWN getting hit for airing the show at the odd time of 7 pm Eastern, not giving it good lead-ins, and for overhyping Rosie as Oprah’s successor. A Chicago Tribune report earlier this month seems to bear this out, with a prickly Rosie butting heads with Harpo vets that seemed to want to produce “The Rosie Show” in the same way they did “Oprah,” with pre-taped introductory segments and other production standards that were O-specific.

For her part, Rosie seems to be pretty OK with the show ending, if her Twitter feed is any indication, telling followers that it was “just business.” She even retweeted a post from her nemesis Donald Trump, who said that “Rosie O’Donnell has failed again. Her ratings were abysmal and Oprah cancelled her on Friday night. When will media executives learn that Rosie just hasn’t got it.”

If Rosie were smart, she would have taken the NBC deal and done the show from New York. And it seems that Oprah and the folks at OWN are finding out what works on their network, and it seems to be the same formula that worked for Oprah for a quarter-century: her doing big-ticket interviews. How else can they explain 3.5 million viewers for the “Oprah’s Next Chapter” with Bobbi Kristina Brown, on a network where even the best show gets one-seventh that viewership?

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The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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