Rosie O’Donnell loses show. Dennis Miller gets one

Dennis Miller will be joining an ABC comedy pilot titled Awesometown:

The comedy pilot, from writer/executive producer Sztykiel and 20th Century Fox TV, is described as a raw, hilarious peek behind the curtain of modern twentysomething relationships. It centers on Dusty (Rappaport), a twentysomething guy who, after a divorce, moves into an apartment shared by his co-worker Andrew (Nick Kocher) and roommate Oliver (James Earl III). Miller will play Nelson Burke, the genius boss of Burke Architecture, “who has never smiled and is surgical with his cut downs.”

Not so good of news for Rosie O’Donnell as the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) has cancelled “The Rosie Show.” Oprah released the following statement:

I thank Rosie from the bottom of my heart for joining me on this journey. She has been an incredible partner, working to deliver the best possible show every single day. As I have learned in the last 15 months, a new network launch is always a challenge and ratings grow over time as you continue to gather an audience. I’m grateful to Rosie and the dedicated Rosie Show team for giving it their all.

What went wrong?

OWN went for broke with the launch of The Rosie Show, whose October premiere, along with that of Oprah’s Lifeclass, were blasted on five Discovery networks. The struggling and money-losing OWN spent some $10 million to market the two shows, whose debut was touted as an unofficial OWN relaunch. That $10 million went where the previous $250 million+ in investment from Discovery went — down the drain. After an OK start with 500,000 viewers tuning in to the premiereRosie quickly lost more than half of that to average under 200,000 viewers for most of its run, while Lifeclass was pretty much DOA. Why did O’Donnell, who had two successful previous daytime talk show stints under her belt, on her own syndicated show and on ABC’s The View, fizzle so quickly?

The reasons have to do with OWN and with O’Donnell, with their partnership appearing doomed from the start. It’s hard to get traction for a new show on a network very few people are watching. It also doesn’t help that Rosie was scheduled at 7 PM, a time period no one associates with talk shows, which normally air in daytime and late-night. Airing Rosie at a time when viewers are not in the habit of watching a talk show against venerable performers like Wheel Of Fortune and Jeopardy proved a tall order. Still, as Winfrey’s recent interview with Whitney Houston’s daughter, which attracted 3.5 million viewers, proved, noisy programing can draw eyeballs even on a very low-trafficked network.

Daily Beast has a sum up:

The episode trudged along, rather inconspicuously, with the first guest: the tattoo artist, former reality star, and ex-fiancée of Jesse James, Kat Von D. The Rosie we all knew and loved—the one who built a $100 million empire with her landmark talk show that ran for 1,193 episodes from 1996 to 2002—was virtually absent, replaced by a subdued and checked-out host. “Um … so … you’ve been in the limelight, had a public romance?” O’Donnell asked. “I thought that was the first famous guy you went out with,” she said, not even mentioning James by name. Since the episode was pretaped, it made no reference to something else significant: the show’s demise.

As the final credits rolled, the Oprah Winfrey Network issued a press release announcing The Rosie Show had been canceled, following six months of humiliating ratings.

At the Harpo offices in Chicago, O’Donnell’s staff had been alerted of the decision only hours before, after weeks of rumors that the show was on the chopping block. Over a short TV life span, through countless reboots and hiatuses, the series had morphed from a delightful comedy hour that nonetheless premiered to weak ratings in the fall to a bleak, Larry King–style interview program with C-list guests like the cast of Dance Moms and Jaleel White. Through all the changes, some 30 employees from producers to writers had left because of budget cuts and possibly because of a boss who couldn’t decide what she wanted and frequently humiliated them in public. “It was such a fucking hellhole,” says one former staffer.