Was “The Rosie Show” canceled because it was too gay?


I went into watching The Rosie Show with high hopes, but perhaps too many expectations. As someone who was a religious Oprah watcher, I perhaps imagined her Harpo studios would give Rosie the same magic it held for O. But with the news that Rosie O’Donnell‘s failed talk show has now been canceled by OWN, it’s clear that the magic left with Ms. Winfrey.

The Daily Beast‘s Ramin Setoodeh (infamous for his Newsweek piece on how gay actors can’t play straight convincingly) surmised the show didn’t do well because of more than the studio. In fact, it didn’t seem like he could find much right with it. Based mostly on hearsay, as neither Rosie or Oprah’s teams will comment on the cancellation just yet, it seems issues with the show’s set-up, location in Chicago and Harpo staff were all reasons it wasn’t able to bring in viewers. But then there’s this section:

Market research had indicated that even the show’s gay-friendly audience was tiring of all the gay references and hearing O’Donnell talk about being a lesbian, but O’Donnell disregarded that critique. On a recent Friday night, she advertised on Twitter that she was doing a special where she talked about being gay in America. The show ended up being an interview with Randy Roberts Potts, the grandson of televangelist Oral Roberts, and it featured clips of Rosie talking to her staff about coming out. During another episode, she implied on TV that one of the younger staff members was gay, when he had never talked about his sexual orientation. The incident left him upset and embarrassed.

Rosie with tonight’s guest, Lily Tomlin

I’m very curious as to where this market research is or was done. It wasn’t cited or linked to in The Daily Beast piece, so it was probably (like most other things in the article) based on anonymous insider tips. But if that was the case, then I am not only disheartened, but I fear for America. As a viewer of all current talk shows who have out hosts (The Rosie Show, The Ellen Show, The Rachel Maddow Show and The Talk), I find them all to be on the same wavelength when it comes to mentioning of their relationships or sexuality, and generally when the discussion topic is related to it in some way. Perhaps Rosie’s jokes about crushing on Tom Cruise have now been replaced with mentions of her fiancee, Michelle — is that so polarizing? I would hope not, especially on a network like OWN where the LGBT community is included and embraced on several other shows, as has been the case on Oprah’s own show over its 25-year run.

Rosie with fiancee Michelle Rounds

For those of you who, like me, began to watch the show when it launched this past fall but lost enthusiasm for it when it appeared the host, herself, had, I’m sure you didn’t become more of a passive viewer because of Rosie’s sexuality, well-timed lesbian jokes or monologues about her personal life. In fact, I found those things quite refreshing and normalizing. She has a partner, a family and everyday tidbits, woes and experiences to share like any other talk show host would and should. The problem, in my opinion, were the guests and the lack of research Rosie appeared to have done on them before they came on to the show. In the beginning, with interviewees like Roseanne Barr and Russell Brand, it was clear that Rosie liked them and knew them, so there was a easy-to-watch rapport between them, like Ellen DeGeneres seems to have with just about anybody.

But when she was struggling to book guests, as The Daily Beast reports, because Chicago was no longer a “media stop town,” there was no real excitement around the conversation we’d be tuning in for. It became more like her radio show and less something you’d want to spend an hour watching, especially every weeknight at 7 p.m. Unwatched episodes began to pile up on my DVR, and I found myself deleting them after days of uninteresting guests failed to grab my attention. Here or there I’d find out that Kathy Griffin or Sandra Bernhard would be coming on and my interest would be piqued, but it wasn’t enough to keep me regularly looking forward to what Ro would be talking about today.

As someone who lived in Chicago for 10 years, I had a lot of faith that the move would work for Rosie and her family, and that not only the city but the country would rally around her return to TV. All I can say is that I tried, but that magic was just missing, as if Oprah took it all with her.

The Daily Beast says Rosie’s next move, besides the literal move back to New York City, is going to be on Broadway. Rosie recently auditioned for the role of Miss Hannigan in a production of Annie. Here’s hoping she has the right kind of chemistry with the rest of the people on the stage.

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