Despite rumors of conflict between mega media moguls Oprah Winfrey and Rosie O’Donnell, all was well as the pair appeared to promote O’Donnell’s new OWN show, “Rosie,” during a panel at the TCA Cable Press tour. ” Saying she “couldn’t be prouder” to have O’Donnell as part of the OWN family, Winfrey ceded the floor to O’Donnell, who was equally gushy about her new boss.
Describing why she wanted to do a show on OWN, O’Donnell mentioned that she’d aggressively pursued OWN, not the other way around as she almost signed a deal with one of the big four networks. “I kept calling my agent going, ‘Can you call the OWN people? Could you tell them I would like to go back but I would like to go back for OWN?’ You know how agents really care about what you want to do, not about the finances.” When Winfrey and O’Donnell finally met and discussed a deal, O’Donnell recalls that the Queen of All Media wondered why she’d come to a fledgling network instead of a major one. “I was, like, ‘Because it’s you, and you may not get you,’ but I’m 50, and half my life I’ve gotten her, and it’s a huge, huge, you know, stamp of approval that’s beyond sort of anyone’s dream. It feels almost like being knighted.”
But O’Donnell wasn’t just interested in a Winfrey love fest — she had a few barbs for the networks as well. “It was also right at the time when NBC had thrown Conan under the bus, so my desire to attach to a major corporation that had just taken 15 years of service and treated it as if it was nothing was also a huge factor in me not signing, and I kept saying, as I put my pen to the paper, ‘Could you please call the Oprah people again?'”
O’Donnell also informed fans of her previous show to be prepared for a new attitude. “it’s going to be different from the old show in that when I was 33 I think the appeal of my program was there was an authentic, genuine appreciation of pop culture. I loved these people, like Streisand and Tom Cruise, the concept that I could meet them was really beyond my belief, and now I’m 50, and both of those people have stayed in my house, right? So the enthusiasm that I had for celebrities is changed. I have evolved and grown, and the show is going to be reflective of that.”
With the show airing at 7 p.m., O’Donnell is putting a twist on late night talk. “It’s gonna be one celebrity per show, and they’re going to have something to talk about and want to come and play and have a fun kind of 60 minutes together, and there will be an upfront part, like your standard late night fare where I’ll do my kind of comedy. I’m not a monologist. I don’t ba dum dum kind of jokes.”
She’ll also add a game to end each show; her attempt to live out a long held dream. “You know my goal in life was to host ‘The Price is Right.’ It has been in every TV contract I’ve ever signed. Should Bob Barker retire, this is my contractual out, and then he retired, and I begged them, and they chose Drew Carey,” she said, quickly adding, “He’s doing a fine job.”
Though O’Donnell wants comedian Russell Brand (and Adele) for guests, she won’t be tackling (at least not intentionally) is controversy. “But as things come up in life and in the world, you know, if we were on in the last few months, I’m sure that we would have had someone talking with me one day, perhaps, about the fascination with the Casey Anthony trial, because as a child advocate my whole life and career, I don’t really understand why the media and the nation focused on this one child when there are many children killed and tortured every day. I don’t know why this one became the kind of news driver that it did, and I would like to approach that from a sociological or an anthropological point of view as to why we, as a culture, consume media in the way we do. So we’re not going to look for controversy, but should it be germane to what’s happening in the world, I’m sure we will bring up current events.” She then referenced her own checkered talk show past, joking, “Not in a way like attacking Tom Selleck or anything, because once you’ve done that once, really…”
“Rosie” debuts 7/8 p.m. ET/PT Oct. 10 on OWN.