Rosie and Oprah Start Their New Shows

The premieres on OWN Monday were so big, many of the other Discovery channels joined in to simulcast (or at least the other Discovery channels that didn’t have much on their plate already, from Planet Green to Investigation Discovery).

The return of both Rosie O’Donnell and Oprah Winfrey to the daily shows is certainly newsworthy, but the two are on cable, after all, starting in an hour usually given up for dinner or syndicated reruns or game shows, 7 p.m.

For “The Rosie Show” there she was, in the old Harpo Studios in Chicago, filling the space where Oprah once did, and just as naturally doing standup banter and taking questions from the audience “just like Carol Burnett used to do,” before breaking into song – something about Chicago live to the tune of “The Night Chicago Died” (and when’s the last time you heard one hit wonder Paper Lace picked up for parody song duty?).

The song picked up on the fact that the show was being presented live – a bold move that gave the show a little blast of energy, even if it also suggested disaster right around the corner.

And here, certainly, was the possibility of it: Her first guest – and her “dream guest,” she maintained – was the British comic Russell Brand. The two sat on opposing easy chairs and, oddly, began to speak very loudly to one another. Maybe this is something Brand always does before an audience – elevate his voice and shoutl while speaking; O’Donnell may have been following suit just to keep up with him.

Still, it all made for the noisiest talk show debut since “Mo’Nique.” Heey-ayyy!

Amid the mostly amusing banter between the two (Rosie knows how to keep a conversation going, at least), Brand suddenly broke through to a filmed peace bout a local home for women with addictions and its leader. This is where the Oprah content kicks in: Have a part that’s uplifting and full of self-improvement even if it has nothing to do with the rest of the show.

The show ended with O’Donnell as game show host for a particularly easy word game (picking words that have RO in them). O’Donnell has never made a secret over her desire to succeed Bob Barker at “The Price is Right,” so she’s continuing her dream despite the disappointment of not getting that gig.

And what more could the show offer, she asked her adoring live audience rhetorically? Which is when Oprah herself came out amid a blaze of tickertape saying “ConFETTI!” in that odd put-on theatrical voice of hers.

Then came Winfrey’s own hour, “Oprah’s Lifeclass,’ about which I joked there would be no test. Actually, there is some online homework, and there’s even a blackboard behind her as she introduces the show (though, unlike fellow TV professor Glenn Beck, she doesn’t actually use it). And Oprah is nothing if not in lecturing mode as she parrots something she heard in a session with Eckhart Tolles about ego.

She presented parts of the most watched episode of her old talk show – when she unveiled her brief thin look after losing 67 pounds – by saying her own body image was an effect of the ego. Then she went on and on about it. Finally there were a couple of stories of viewers who had the same experience and frankly it didn’t make much more sense from them.

The new age mumbo jumbo could have been precisely the thing that Laura Dern’s character from HBO’s “Enlightened” could have been given.

There was an update from the football player who admitted beating his wife, and it was nearly as tearful as his first confession.

If Oprah wanted to replay memorable shows and provide brief introductions and updates, it might be easier than making these interminable lecture series with clips of shows as source material for some long-winded, boring talking.

Can’t say I’ll be tuning in often to see what’s up with these two middle aged women, but mostly because I still can’t find OWN on my cable system. I had to watch the simulcast on Investigation Discovery. Tracking down the shows in my own market will take a little of my own investigation discovery.

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