Rosie to the rescue
Can she save OWN?
By MICHAEL STARR
Last Updated: 11:21 AM, March 30, 2011
Posted: 12:54 AM, March 30, 2011
In Rosie she trusts.
Oprah Winfrey has turned over the hallowed "Oprah" studio to Rosie O'Donnell's upcoming daytime show -- hoping the loud-mouthed lightning-rod can be the savior of Winfrey's struggling OWN cable network.
O'Donnell's weekday show, premiering this fall, will anchor OWN's daytime lineup. Rosie will move into Studio One -- Oprah's Chicago home for the last 25 years -- shortly after Winfrey tapes the final episode of her legendary talk show, May 25.
More important, many, if not most, of the current "Oprah" staffers are expected to work on O'Donnell's new show now, according to Harpo Studios co-presidents Sheri Salata and Erik Logan.
O'Donnell is under contract to make 130 episodes of her as-yet-untitled show.
It is now clear that Oprah is investing heavily in Rosie -- giving O'Donnel her top-of-the-line studio and large, high-priced staff -- in hopes that she can turn around the fortunes of her new cable network and create a trademark show for the 3-month-old channel.
"The good news is that 130 hours of a talk show comes with lots of jobs -- and people ready to fill those jobs," Logan said. "We need people," he added. "We'll be producing almost 300 hours of TV from the same facility."
O'Donnell herself spoke to what is now effectively her new staff in a closed-circuit video for Harpo employees yesterday.
"Some of you are going to be sticking around and helping us make a kick-ass show for the Oprah Winfrey Network," she said.
O'Donnell's new show marks her return to daytime TV, where she's had both soaring success and turbulence over the last 15 years. She hosted the Emmy-winning fan favorite "The Rosie O'Donnell Show" from 1996-2002. In 2006, she joined "The View" for a stormy, one-season stint in which she bickered with co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, engaged in a nasty feud with Donald Trump and was voted "The Most Annoying Celebrity of 2007" by Parade magazine.
Winfrey believes O'Donnell will draw viewers to OWN, which lags far behind its main competitors, Lifetime, Oxygen and WE.