Given how much hoopla surrounded Rosie O’Donnell’s debut on OWN, it’s no surprise that the network tried to put a happy spin on the ratings results of its premiere. After all, the 497,000 viewers who tuned in were above average for the struggling network, though no match for other show premieres like Shania Twain’s “Why Not? With Shania Twain” (839,000 viewers) or “Our America with Lisa Ling” (574,000 viewers). Still, almost half a million viewers isn’t bad for basic cable — and once you added in all the eyeballs from the four other Discovery networks that co-aired the premiere (TLC, Investigation Discovery, Disovery Fit & Health and Planet Green), the total averaged an impressive 1.5 million. So, not so bad, right?
Well, the show hasn’t held on to those viewers, unfortunately. This Tues., Nielsen Media Research reported that the show’s ratings had plunged to 194,000, a 61 percent drop. Worse, only 40 percent of those watching were adults 18 to 49. Granted, the show airs five days a week, so once-a-week programs like Ling’s may be qualify as appointment viewing (and don’t clog up the DVR), but it seems even casual viewers aren’t coming back for daily doses of O’Donnell.
Clearly, “The Rosie Show” is not going to be the network savior OWN was hoping for — and it’s not likely to add much sheen from a critical perspective. Critics ranged from vaguely laudatory to downright dismayed at the program. The Los Angeles Times dubbed it a “not-bad, pretty good, kinda funny, sort of smart debut,” while Variety declared it “curiously flat and understated.” Personally, I found the show familiar (and not in a good way), tiresome in spots and ultimately a rambling, unfocused program that, while intermittently charming, seemed too shaggy to sustain its own weight. I think I, like a lot of people, had a hard time shaking the memory of the shrieking, angry combatant she was on “The View” and hoped to see glimmers of the fun, enthusiastic star who won audiences over in droves in the 1990s. While yes, there were glimmers, too often they were buried under stale jokes and a tired passivity.
Still, OWN is sticking with the show, as it’s already made a sizable investment in both development and recruiting O’Donnell (who recently bought a home in Chicago. But for how long is unclear. I hope OWN and “The Rosie Show” can make sufficient tweaks to bring me (and lots of other viewers) back, but I’m not so certain that’s realistic.
Have you watched the show? Do you think it works or would it benefit from changes? Do you think Rosie O’Donnell has lost her spark?