By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Rosie O'Donnell, promoting her forthcoming NBC Thanksgiving Eve variety special/backdoor pilot, told reporters yesterday that being on "The View" -- from which she departed hastily and publicly -- left her with something akin to post-traumatic stress disorder.
The experience was like gathering the whole family at Nanna's for Thanksgiving and Nanna wanting everyone to get along and pretend everything is hunkydunky even though one couple is on the verge of divorce and another family member is a drug addict, O'Donnell elaborated.
In much the same way, O'Donnell said, "The View" exec producer and sometime star Barbara Walters "wanted everyone to believe and think and act as if [the show's on-air personalities] get along and are really good friends and happy and hang out together and . . . that's just not the reality."
"I'm not saying we loathed each other, but there wasn't a lot of off-camera camaraderie. . . . What happened on the show was a personal argument with a friend [Walters] that was publicly displayed. I didn't want to be paid to fight."
If O'Donnell's new variety show attracts enough viewers -- the night before Thanksgiving is traditionally one of low television use as family members travel over the river and through the woods to Nanna's house -- NBC will probably order six more episodes, to debut in January. After that, NBC can keep buying the show in six-episode increments, O'Donnell told reporters in a news conference call.
The special is live with a five-second delay, which O'Donnell insists isn't needed because "this is not a show about Guantanamo" and "there is no production number about torture," she said.
Contrary to what appeared to be the common view among reporters on the phone call, O'Donnell said she can host a show without being political, citing her first daytime talker.
"Your perception of my career may be skewed" by recent events, she finally told one reporter.
"I didn't grow up thinking, 'I hope I can talk about politics.' . . . It only became about that with the job on 'The View,' " she said. "I took the job on 'The View' . . . knowing what the job description was.
"It was conversation that needed to be had and I started the ball rolling," O'Donnell said. "For that show to be taken seriously as a political show -- I had to fight long and hard to get them to address [political hot-button issues]. They wanted to talk about lipstick shades."
O'Donnell said she does not regret doing a year on "The View," even though it ended so angrily, because she thinks she "kicked it up a notch" and made it "relevant in pop culture in a way that it hadn't been before."
On the other hand, what she thinks the TV-viewing country needs now is not arguing over politics but a variety show -- one without judges, that is, one that will "never" have Donald Trump as a guest, and one that does not book celebrities who have something to sell and who tell the "same four stories" from program to program.
As an example, she could have cited Denis Leary plugging his new book "Why We Suck" on "The Daily Show" Tuesday night and, 12 hours later, on "The View" :
Jon Stewart: This is the book. "Why We Suck." I did not know you were a doctor, but it says "Dr."
Leary: I've got an actual doctorate from my alma mater, from Emerson College.
Stewart: But that's like a [expletive] doctorate.
Leary: The way it works is if you become a famous guy after you graduate from the college, they just . . . 'cause I taught there. That's how I met my wife.
Stewart: Was she a student?
Leary: My wife was a student. It was before they had the law. . . . She took a writing class that I was teaching, and I taught the class. After all the classes were over at the end of the term, we matriculated.
(12 hours later)
Joy Behar: The book lists you as Dr. Denis Leary. What does that mean?
Leary: That means that my alma mater, after I graduated -- I mean, I actually graduated. But I didn't do anything after that except teach there for a while and meet my wife, while she was one of my students.
Elisabeth Hasselbeck: You were at Emerson, right?
Leary: Yeah. But I think we've said this before on the show . . .
Behar: You had, yeah.
Leary: We didn't matriculate with each other until after she was done with the class.
Behar: Because that can cause pregnancy.
Leary: But because I'm a famous guy, I got an actual -- they give me a degree. They make you a doctor if you're a famous guy.
* * *
Remember how NBCUniversal2.0 whacked the two writer/producers on its ratings-challenged "Heroes" and told show creator Tim Kring to get back to work and back to basics? The media conglom, which produces and also broadcasts the serialized drama, did so because, for each of the past three weeks, "Heroes" has redefined its "series low" -- most recently pulling in 7.7 million viewers. That's only about half the crowd it attracted when it first hit NBC's prime-time lineup in fall 2006.
So, what has Kring been doing since then to try to win back viewers?
For one thing, he's been speaking at Creative Screenwriting magazine's 2008 Screenwriting Expo this past weekend during a "Heroes" panel, which originally was supposed to include the two writer/producers who got the old heave-ho. Attendees were warned ahead of time that there would be no talk of the writing staff changes because they were there to discuss the art of screenwriting. That's according to Imagine Games Network, which had a representative attending the expo.
Instead, Kring spent a lot of time explaining why the lousy ratings aren't his fault. Here's his thinking:
Writing a serialized drama is "an absolute bear." It is also a "very flawed way of telling stories on network television," because of the advent of DVR and online streaming, for example, Kring said, according to the report.
Serialized dramas work only if people sit in front of their TV sets on the night and at the hour the network broadcasts each episode. But now, you can watch a serialized drama whenever and wherever you want and almost all of those other means of watching episodes "are superior to watching it on the air." Sooooo, the only people watching a show -- "Heroes" perhaps -- at the time it's being broadcast by a network -- say NBC -- are the "saps and [expletives] who can't figure out how to watch it in a superior way."