Can Rosie O’Donnell save NBC tonight?
That’s the question everyone associated with the peacock network will be asking tonight at 8 p.m., eastern time.
That’s when Rosie’s “Rosie Live” will debut, a live variety show straight from Broadway’s Little Shubert Theater.
If the viewership is high enough, Rosie may be just the tonic for an ailing network schedule.
NBC has already dumped “Lipstick Jungle,” “My Own Worst Enemy,” and “Crusoe.” I’d never even heard of that last one, so that should say something.
They’ve also just announced that they’re putting “Deal or No Deal” on the shelf for a while, which is just as well.
If it weren’t for “30 Rock” and “The Office,” and the “Law & Order” show, there would be pretty much nothing to watch on the network at all. That is, unless you’re truly revved for the return of “Knight Rider.”
Tonight, Rosie is offering up what could be the beginning of something big. Her first show features performances by Alannis Morrisette, Ne Yo, comedian Kathy Griffin, plus Alec Baldwin, Jane Krakowski, Rachael Ray, Harry Connick Jr., Clay Aiken, and Gloria Estefan.
Rosie’s going to open the show with a big musical number – a duet she’s been rehearsing with Liza Minnelli for several days.
No, it’s NFL Monday Night Football. Rosie has a specific audience in mind. It’s families, and kids. She told me two nights ago, at the 2nd annual fundraiser for her For All Kids Foundation, that if the show gets picked up she’ll feature Broadway every week.
And there are plenty of possibilities to turn “Rosie Live” into an “American Idol” killer. With the live format in hand, Rosie is capable of staging all kinds of interactive contest segments on the show, including a showcase of new performers in all categories. Drawing from the New York talent pool, she has unlimited resources.
And don’t underestimate the situation. Two weeks ago, at the premiere of Elton John’s hit show, “Billy Elliott,” I overheard several publicists pitching their clients to Rosie for future episodes. Shades of the old days of the Ed Sullivan show! He must be smiling down from heaven—not that we ever saw him smile!
Meanwhile, Rosie’s fundraiser was a smash hit. Star guests ranged from the ridiculous (Clay Aiken) to the sublime — Jane Fonda, looking several million bucks. Jane’s extended family and Rosie’s have become such good friends that the whole group — maybe as many as two dozen people—are going on an expedition to the Galapagos Islands together next May.
Among the many speakers, playwright Terrence McNally got the funniest line of the night: “I’m filling in for Barbara Walters,” he said, “who couldn’t be here.” Right!
As usual at a Rosie event, the whole night was about the entertainment. The highlight was a tribute to legend Chita Rivera. Bebe Neuwirth, Christine Ebersole, and Linda Eder each did numbers with a full orchestra. Bebe, who wore a sexy number from her old show, “Chicago” and performed a showstopping Kander and Ebb number, even introduced me to her fiancée. He’s not in the biz, as they say, but a vineyard owner from Napa Valley. Congrats!
The other big surprise of the night came from Rosie’s Kids, her gang of school kids who belong to her center in the theater district to learn singing, dancing, and acting. They put on a couple of great numbers themselves including one from “Bye Bye Birdie” that was as professional as anything you could imagine. Check them out at www.rosiesbroadwaykids.org. It won’t be long before we’ll see them on “Rosie Live!” I’m sure!
Madonna’s processed voice makes a cameo appearance on a track on Britney Spears’ new album, Circus.
The song is called Kill the Lights, and Madonna’s trademark voice comes in at exactly 50 seconds, when she sings a whole verse including the line: “There’s more to me than what you see.” The song is about paparazzi, one of the least interesting subjects known to man.
Later in the song — which should be a big dance hit in clubs — Britney makes a throwaway reference to Madonna. “Is Madonna gonna get the best of you?” she teases.
In fact, Madonna's made what may be her first ever guest appearance on another pop singer’s album, maybe even for free.
“Circus” hits stores on December 2nd, but it’s all over the internet in different forms. You can hear the whole thing on Britney’s website.
It includes her lead single, “Womanizer.” It’s a surprising well produced, well made album with lots of catchy dance tracks and tons of production tricks to make Spears sound like a singer of some kind. All of her vocals are run through a processor similar to the one Kanye West uses on his new CD. It makes “singers” out of warblers, the way CGI creates huge armies of soldiers or realistic tsunamis in new movies.
It’s so fake, it’s real!
Do many of Spears’s songs sound the same as others? Why yes! Does it matter that the 6th track, “Amy,” and “Radar,” the closer, strongly resemble “Womanizer”? In fact they’re the same song, or made to sound that way. No!
And she does have a pair of superior pop recordings on there, called “Unusual You,” and “Blur.” Each sounds more like…Madonna…than Britney. If only the surgical team of producers who put this “Circus” in its tent would talk! But whatever, whoever, how ever: “Unusual You,” written by Sean Garrett and Candace Nelson, is a melodic gem, better than most post-teen popsters could hope for. It’s a sweet achievement. Let’s give her that. I’m putting it on my Zen X-Fi Mp3 player today, right alongside Aimee Mann and Julia Fordham. Now, that’s high praise!
Outer space seems to be on the mind now even of David Bowie’s son, Duncan Jones.
I’m told his first feature film as a director, called “Moon,” has gotten into the Sundance Film Festival.
“Moon” stars one of our favorite actors, Sam Rockwell, as an astronaut who spends three years stranded on our orbiting piece of green cheesecake. The word is that Rockwell, who is always good, gives a superb performance.
There’s no word yet on whether Duncan’s dad’s most famous hit record, “Space Oddity,” about an astronaut adrift in the Milky Way, will be in the soundtrack—the one that starts: “Ground control to Major Tom.” It should be!
You may better recall Duncan from his name given at birth: Zowie. Oh, the 70s! I have been instructed, don’t call him Zowie now! Wisely, Jones picked out a new moniker for himself years ago. Duncan’s mom, of course, is Angela Bowie, whom the Rolling Stones memorialized so well in their hit song, “Angie.”
“Moon” has lots of other pedigree, too. It was written by Nathan Parker, son of famed director Alan, whose movies include “Fame,” “Birdy,” and “Midnight Express.” And one of the producers is Trudie Styler, aka Mrs. Sting, who also a documentary going to Sundance about politics in South America. Styler’s last producing outing was “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,” the film that introduced hot young stars Shia LaBeouf and Channing Tatum to audiences.