Rosie O'Donnell pledged her NBC variety show on Wednesday night wouldn't get political -- but it did, with gooey praise for Barack Obama at the beginning and then halfway into the show there were lame jokes against Bill O'Reilly and Sarah Palin.
She began by saying there's wouldn't be politics, but had to say "just two words: Barack Obama." She looked up to God and mouthed "Thank you" while the audience cheered. "I can't get over it, really," Rosie claimed. "It's been 22 days since the election and I just yesterday stopped hugging every black person I see."
More than 30 minutes into the show, Rosie played some sort of police officer and a woman playing a pig-tailed little girl (carrying a stuffed animal) cracked jokes with her. After making fun that Rosie wasn't on the diet show Celebrity Fit Club, the pig-tailed one said "I have problems of my own. Bill O'Reilly just Friended me on Facebook." (Andrea Mackris sex-harassment suit humor, no doubt.)
That joke was harsher than the Palin joke. The girl next wondered if Alanis Morrisette was ready to sing yet, since "this sketch is dying faster than a moose at a Sarah Palin picnic."
The show was supposed to be some nostalgic version of an old-time variety show, but it wasn't really for the family-hour set. O'Donnell began by repeatedly touching her breasts and making jokes about how her "Spanx" undergarments were holding her together, like a "onesie for chubby forty-somethings." She also said "dammit" in the first few minutes.
Perhaps the biggest turn-the-channel moment for parents (other than watching Rosie or Liza Minnelli sing) was "30 Rock" actress Jane Krakowski singing about all the fancy consumer goodies the audience in the theater would receive for free, including a BlackBerry. Krakowski stripped down into a lace corset, and at the end, jokingly threw the corset off while hiding behind Rosie, as Rosie said "This is a family show! This is a family show!" Not.
Rosie dropped several gay jokes in, like the one about her 11-year-old daughter wondering why she has two mommies and no high heels. Rosie said two-mommy households don't have a lot of high heels, but two-daddy households...
Singer Clay Aiken, freshly out of the closet, dropped by to plug his Broadway show "Spamalot," but did not sing. He and Rosie talked about everything they had in common, and then joked there was one big thing they could not remember.
The show also featured Alec Baldwin (no politics), and he dropped his face into Rosie's cleavage several times as a joke about talking into her mike. Kathy Griffin came on impersonating CNN Headline News's Nancy Grace. That sketch started with real footage of Grace knocking Rosie as a "bully." NBC offered Rosie's revenge.
As just plain television, it was a very unfunny and uneven hour. The only good joke was Rosie praising her teenage son, saying she knew he was adopted because he's the only O'Donnell with a six-pack on the outside of his stomach. The musical performances were not good, including the concluding duet with Rosie and Gloria Estefan singing about pigging out at Thanksgiving. Anyone who tuned in looking for an engaging old-style variety show was surely disappointed.