Rosie O’Donnell Returns to NBC with “Rosie’s Variety Show”

Openly gay comedian and former talk show host Rosie O’Donnell will host a live, hour-long special on NBC on Nov. 26 called Rosie’s Variety Show, it was announced in The Hollywood Reporter today.

The show — a 2009 version of classic variety shows like The Carol Burnett Show or The Ed Sullivan Show — will feature celebrity guests, musical acts, comedy skits and prizes for the audience and TV viewers.

O’Donnell became famous with the success of her long-running NBC talk show The Rosie O’Donnell Show (1996-2002), which ended its run the same year she came out as a lesbian.

But she’s more recently known for her controversial 2006-07 hosting stint on ABC’s The View (see our article "Seven Reasons Why Rosie Had to Leave The View" for an overview).

O’Donnell and her View co-hosts

She has also recently guested on Nip/Tuck (FX), dabbled in producing Broadway shows, released a book called Celebrity Detox about the downside of fame, and launched her own cruise line for gay families. (O’Donnell and her partner Kelli Carpenter O’Donnell were married in San Francisco in 2004.)

Last year, there were rumors that the politically left O’Donnell was in talks with MSNBC to return to TV with a political commentary show, but the deal fell apart during contract negotiations, according to The New York Times.

If the Nov. 26 Rosie’s Variety Show special is successful, NBC may expand it to a full series. The Reporter expands on the reasons behind NBC’s interest in this project:

For NBC, the project’s live aspect is of particular interest, both as a way of distinguishing the product from competitors and to discourage viewers from time-shifting the show. NBC has aired America’s Got Talent results shows live this year and plans a quartet of Saturday Night Live primetime specials.

“This will reinvent the idea of what a variety show is for 2008,” NBC vp alternative Craig Plestis said. “There’s very few performers willing to put themselves out there live. It makes it more TiVo-proof, and it’s something none of the cable networks can do.”

The Huffington Post reports that O’Donnell has been considering the idea of doing this kind of live variety show since 2002. It combines O’Donnell’s love of theater, unscripted interviews, and commentary, and comedy.

One of the reasons The View‘s ratings was at its highest when O’Donnell hosted was because of her propensity to speak without a filter, to say something shocking or at least controversial. By airing Rosie’s Variety Show live, NBC is no doubt hoping viewers will tune in to see what she’ll say next.

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