What a great week for queer television. Not only did Thanksgiving week bring us the Macy's Day Parade, but as an added bonus we got the Battle of the Lesbian Variety Shows!
One was spectacular. The other was a spectacular flop. Details from your dedicated reality TV authority after the jump.
Rosie Live kicked off on Thanksgiving Eve. We set our DVR to record. We were excited to see Rosie making a comeback. Paige asked us a million times if we'd remembered to set the DVR. We went out for dinner that night and she was on the edge of her seat to come back and watch the variety show.
We eagerly flipped on the TV when we got home. By the end of the first act, Paige had declared, "This show sucks." and started reading a book. (And if you know Paige, reading a book is not her favorite activity.)
Rosie's opening monologue sucked; the jokes were all about her. Her first guest was Liza Minelli. Seriously. It doesn't get any more gay or dated, but the love-fest was on as each guest sucked up to Rosie. Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse than watching Alex Baldwin sticking his face down Rosie's bosom, Clay Aiken "stopped by" in his Spamelot costume for some banter about how much they love each other and everything they have in common.
Didn't that coy back and forth that ends with, "We're both Gaaaay-briel Reese fans!" make you want to throw up? Maybe not the best joke for the long-time closeted Aiken or the "I Love Tom Cruise!" lesbian? Their histories of avoiding any discussion of their "private life" (read: sexuality) for career reasons until they needed publicity was the first thing that came to my mind.
If the TV variety format weren't already dead, the ghastly ego trip of NBC's Thanksgiving-eve turkey Rosie Live would surely have killed it. Like the pie Alec Baldwin predictably pushed into Conan O'Brien's face that fell to the floor without sticking, the entire hour landed with a sickening, sad, ill-conceived thud. It felt like an off night at America's Got Talent, bookended by wobbly appearances from Liza Minnelli and Gloria Estefan, each forced to perform with the caterwauling host, Rosie O'Donnell.
I miss the Rosie from the early days of her talk show, when she showcased the latest of Broadway and pop alongside show-biz legends with equal glee and reverence, before it became all about her. I was hoping Rosie Live would recapture some of that magic, but instead Rosie the egotist hogged the spotlight to everyone's discomfort and detriment. Far from bringing the variety show back to life, Rosie stuck a fork in it, drove the last nail into its coffin, broke its back, you pick the metaphor.
While Rosie Live was all about Rosie, Ellen Degeneres' Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show was all about the performers. Perhaps it was her experience hosting so many awards shows, but the show's pacing and timing was a thousand times better; nothing felt rushed and awkward.
Instead, Ellen spent her time in the spotlight gushing over the performers instead of vice versa. I don't remember many celebrities, but I do remember being amazed at some of the performers. But most of all? I remember Ellen smiling a lot and encouraging the entertainers. Her opening monologue wasn't memorable, but the opening dance scene coming into the theater was!
Ellen's acts performed acrobatics galore, sang, danced and generally looked like they were having a fun time. She brought one guy out of the audience to spin inside a giant metal hula hoop and then asked him to spin her in it; in another act a woman spun in circles from a huge pole. The pole was balanced on her brother; she was held on to the pole by her hair.
TBS scored a winner with Ellen's variety show. NBC? Not so much.