Variety show special bows to weak numbers

NBC’s attempt to revive the variety show genre hit a serious snag last week as “Rosie Live” drew a small audience on Thanksgiving Eve.

Preliminary Nielsen estimates show that the Rosie O’Donnell-hosted spec, featuring celebrity guests, musical acts and comedy skits involving the likes of Alec Baldwin, Harry Connick Jr. and Liza Minnelli, settled for about 5 million viewers. In the 18-49 demo, it matched ABC’s “Pushing Daisies” as the night’s lowest-rated program on the major nets (1.2 rating/4 share), coming in below what the struggling “Knight Rider” has been averaging in recent weeks.

NBC can’t be pleased with the performance even on the night before Thanksgiving, when many auds are distracted and viewing levels are lower than usual. The net was going to gauge viewer interest before ordering more segs.

For her part, O’Donnell seems resigned to the fact that the experiment ended last week. “There will be no more,” she wrote on her blog. “No ratings. Bad reviews.”

Though all Wednesday shows were on the low side, CBS held up best, led by “Criminal Minds” (prelim 3.4/10 in 18-49, 14.0 million viewers overall) — the night’s top program.

ABC improved its fortunes in the evening’s final hour with a special “20/20” featuring a Barbara Walters interview with President-elect Barack Obama (prelim 3.0/9 in 18-49, 11.7 million viewers overall).

Wednesday marked the end of the November sweep, in which ABC was expected to prevail by a small margin over CBS in the 18-49 race (Daily Variety, Nov. 26). CBS drew the most viewers overall for the month.

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