Only 5 million tuned in at all, so the problem can't have been the actual content of the show:
Segments included Kathy Griffin impersonating Nancy Grace, Alec Baldwin hitting Conan O'Brian with a pie, O'Donnell singing "City Lights" with Liza Minnelli and Jane Krakowski doing a product-placement-themed striptease for White Castle burgers and Crest Whitestrips.That NYT review -- from Alessandra Stanley -- came after the show aired. So it seems the concept was off-putting enough to people, but if hadn't been, they'd have found the execution deadly. Per Stanley:
Critics were not kind. The NY Times described it as "hokey comedy with an enemies list." TV Guide called it a "ghastly ego trip." And the LA Times asked, "Rosie, what on earth were you thinking?"
In between skits, celebrity cameos and hokey novelty acts, the legendarily thin-skinned Ms. O'Donnell found time to take potshots at some of her favorite targets, including Donald Trump, Nancy Grace and Bill O'Reilly....It's not easy to be the brilliant Ms. Burnett, and you should never, never underestimate what constitutes the greatness that is Cher.
Ms. O'Donnell's self-referential swats at detractors were light, but they clashed with the context, lending a hard, contemporary edge to what was intended to be a corny, heartfelt homage to variety shows of yesteryear, like "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" and "The Carol Burnett Show."...
From the L.A. Times:
For weeks now NBC has seduced and tantalized with the promise of a cross between Carol Burnett and “Sonny and Cher.” And this is what we get? Rosie in a glitter top having Baldwin speak into her cleavage and making jokes about her weight? Someone get a hold of Tim Conaway, stat.Tim Conaway? I guess the L.A. Times doesn't really spend much time reminiscing about the old Carol Burnett show.
Joe Gandelman blogs:
If you’re a student of show biz history, there are books that detail the careers of Burnett, Sullivan, and Martin that chronicle the thought and care that went into the preparation of their shows and what they were trying to do on them....Any ideas as to who could fit that role? Celebrities are so awful these days. Who wants to see how they behave presenting other celebrities?
But what you don’t read as much about are the many variety shows that hideously flopped over the past 50 years and the performers who either hit a dead end and didn’t do as well on weekly TV series as they did in other venues: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. Jerry Lewis and a host of other. Every attempt at a variety show didn’t click: a huge number of shows noisily bombed....
So the variety show format isn’t dead. It could still be revived– with the right performer who isn’t controversial, with careful thought, and with packaging and production values more akin to a Vegas or cruise style variety show than a celebrity vanity production with a bunch of celebrities instead of high-powered talent of its era.
We'd rather watch another season of "American Idol," with third-rate music and annoying youngsters who only want to become the celebrities who have become too loathsome to watch. At least we get to see "American Idol" contestants judged and insulted for thinking they are much good. Maybe the old variety format could live again with a panel of judges or some sort of on-screen vote tally as we phone in and tell them they're nowhere near as good as they think they are.