There’s been quite a bit of talk in the TV blogosphere about the crashing-and-burning of Rosie O’Donnell’s variety show on NBC last Wednesday. By the next day, when Nielsen said only five million people had watched the show, the network announced it would not pick up the option to turn the show into a series (or even an occasional special), and the critics were unanimous in their scorn.
Ironically, little has been said about Ellen DeGeneres’ variety show, which aired this weekend on TBS. It’s her second annual “Really Big Show,” done at Caesar’s Palace as part of a comedy festival. And it works.
Unlike O’Donnell’s insistence on shoving all things Broadway down viewers’ throats, Degeneres plays host to the kind of Vegas novelty acts that must show up in the Cirque Du Soleil casting office every day — from tumblers to jugglers to a mannequin dancer (?!?). The only sour notes are an 8-year-old girl who sings “Proud Mary” a la Tina Turner (making you squirm in a Jon-Benet-Ramsey-Meets-Sin-City way) and magician Hans Klok (poster boy for the kind of big illusion acts Penn & Teller love to make fun of).
There’s also a funny segment where DeGeneres meets the cast of “Legends,” a show at the Imperial Palace that has celebrity impersonators onstage (Madonna, Britney, Cher, Elvis, Leno) and very old people in the audience. DeGeneres goes out to perform, and the crowd doesn’t seem to realize it’s really her. Nicely done.
“Ellen’s Even Bigger Really Big Show” re-airs Tuesday night on TBS.