Variety shows could return some spice to TV life

Fri Nov 21, 2008 7:00pm EST
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By Alex Dobuzinskis

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Three top U.S. comedians next week will bring variety shows to television and one, Rosie O'Donnell, believes the format could stage a comeback amid the slumping economy if families start gathering around TVs for cheap entertainment.

Specials from O'Donnell, Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Colbert, are each scheduled as one-time events, but if successful they highlight what could be a return to a program format largely absent from U.S. TV for more than 20 years.

"Rosie Live," features Broadway-style singing and dancing from stars such as Gloria Estefan and Harry Connick Jr. O'Donnell and NBC, which airs the show November 26, said it could return as a regularly appearing program.

"The timing is right, I think the economy has made it so people are staying home more and sadly unable to go out," said O'Donnell, 46. "One hour to get around the TV with everyone in your family and laugh, that to me I think is needed now."

For her part, DeGeneres will share the stage of "Ellen's Even Bigger Really Big Show" on November 29 with a brother and sister pole-dancing team, a Dutch magician and performers from Spain, Germany and other countries.

DeGeneres, 50, who already has a daytime talk show, described herself as a fan of old-time variety shows.

"It's something that I've always loved," she told Reuters. "When I was growing up, it's the kind of thing I watched on television all the time and wanted to bring back. It's fun."

"A Colbert Christmas," which lands on cable channel Comedy Central on November23, takes a satirical approach to typical Christmas TV specials with comedy sketches and singers like country star Willie Nelson and rocker Elvis Costello.   Continued...