Well it happened a lot sooner than I expected, but after five low rated months and several re-vamps Rosie O'Donnell's talk show on the Oprah Winfrey Network has been cancelled. Now this has sparked some discussion about "What went wrong?" when I think think the real question should be "What the hell could have possibly gone right?"
If someone had the balls to ask that question when Oprah floated the idea of spending tens of millions of dollars more on a network that's already hemorrhaging cash to start a talk show hosted by someone who repels a massive segment the population of the country, then they may have avoided the whole debacle.
But no one dared.
The decision made sense to Oprah because in her realm of rich media people Rosie is a big star. It doesn't matter that she believes that "Fire doesn't melt steel" and that little brain nugget proves the Bush administration was behind the 9/11/2001 World Trade Center attacks, and that anyone who doesn't agree with her 100% on everything is the epitome of evil. It doesn't matter that her last attempt at a TV comeback was a variety show that even NBC wasn't dumb enough to allow past a first episode.
While Rosie does have her fans, and they're extremely vocal about their adoration of her, the rest of the country views her as a repulsive symbol of everything that's wrong with modern celebrity.
So why didn't anyone tell Oprah that her idea made no sense in the real world where everyone else lives?
Because those who had to tell her exist on the fringes of Oprah's world, and even if you exist on the fringes, Oprah is just too damn big to deny. To deny her could get you tossed right off the fringe and completely out.
This is why I am such a strong advocate of people in show business, no matter how powerful or successful, having someone who is not afraid to speak the truth to them. The Emperors of Rome, during their triumphal parades, used to have a guy sitting beside them whispering "All fame is fleeting" in their ear. In medieval Europe the Court Jester was considered inviolate when it came to the things he said, allowing him to dole out real, sometimes harsh advice, under the guise of "jests."
When you're in the upper echelons of show-biz you exist in extremely rarefied circumstances. You're essentially immunized from the ups and downs that are felt by real people out in the real world, and everyone around is either at your feet, or at your throat.
Plain speaking is extremely rare in these circles. People are usually telling you how great you are to your face, and saving the harsh truth for behind your back. That's why you need someone you can run ideas by, who is fearless enough to ask: "Are you high?"
Then you might be able to avoid debacles like this one.
The other question that comes up from that the show was cancelled so relatively quickly. Usually something that pops up from the Siamese twin phenomena of Hollywood's social isolation, and "too big to deny" are at least given a couple of years to sink completely.
This shows that OWN is a lot closer to total collapse than I think anyone is willing to admit.