‘Rosie’ not resting on her laurels

Chatshow getting fall makeover

“The Rosie O’Donnell Show” is preparing to add new spice to its recipe for success.

The syndie talk-variety hour will have a looser format when its third season bows Sept. 7. Producers are planning longer celebrity interviews and a greater emphasis on lifestyle- and parenting-related feature segs. Another new staple will be a “kids chat” seg featuring O’Donnell yukking it up with a group of pint-sized fans.

O’Donnell will venture out of her Rockefeller Center studio more often for location shoots and man-on-the-street material. The Telepictures/Warner Bros. show also aims to book more non-celebs with unusual or uplifting yarns to tell.

To facilitate some of the planned features, “Rosie” will switch to a live-to-tape production sked instead of being beamed out live each weekday at 10 a.m. ET. At present, a handful of East Coast stations, including WABC New York, carry the show live in the morning; the bulk of its clearances are in afternoon timeslots.

Jim Paratore, prexy of WB’s Telepictures Prods., said “Rosie” is adding new elements in a bid to keep the show fresh and original as a number of new celeb-driven talkers hit the airwaves this fall, including the highly touted entry from Roseanne.

“Change is always part of the process with a Monday-through-Friday show,” Paratore said. “The sands in TV shift every year. If you stand still, it turns into quicksand and your show goes down with it.”

Indeed, syndie biz watchers have noted that the show had become somewhat predictable during the past season. “Rosie’s” ratings have slipped in many markets, but while it’s no longer approaching “Oprah Winfrey” level numbers, there’s no disputing that the advertiser-friendly show is still a major player in daytime TV.

To wit, a bidding frenzy is expected to erupt among the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC O&Os later this year as Warner Bros. inks station deals for “Rosie” for the 2000-01 season and beyond. Just a few months after its premiere in 1996, a number of the show’s major market affils shelled out mega-coin to reup through the 1999-2000 season.

“When we came on the air, we were so successful so fast that it was hard work just keeping up with ourselves,” said Paratore.

“But when you’re doing a show that’s built around a personality like an Oprah or a Rosie, the shows are by nature so much of a reflection of that person that they have to change as that person grows and changes,” he said. “We’ve pretty much stuck to our original format since we came on, and now it’s time to differentiate ourselves … We’re certainly not broken, but we don’t want to rest on our laurels.”

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