Thanksgiving special to kick off series

The table’s set for Rosie O’Donnell’s holiday-season stab at reviving the variety genre.

NBC will air “Rosie’s Variety Show” live from New York on the night before Thanksgiving — Nov. 26 — at 8 p.m. Special, which has been in the works for months, is believed to be the precursor to a regular variety skein fronted by O’Donnell that would bow in the new year.

The hourlong event will include celebrity guests, musical acts, comedy skits and a contest both for in-studio and at-home auds, the network said. David Friedman (“Last Comic Standing,” “Last Call With Carson Daly”) will exec produce with O’Donnell.

“We want to show people that variety can be done in a new and inventive way for 2008,” said Craig Plestis, NBC Entertainment’s exec VP for alternative programming, development and specials. “We hope to do it in ways you haven’t seen before. It’s going to be the YouTube of variety shows..”

“Rosie’s Variety Show” reps the comedian’s first potentially regular TV gig since her stint as a moderator on the 10th season of “The View” — and she’s widely credited with helping to reinvigorate that franchise.

Before that, she spent six years as host and exec producer of daytime talker “The Rosie O’Donnell Show.”

“The key to reinventing variety starts with the talent. And Rosie was the perfect person for this,” Friedman said. “She was already doing a variety show in daytime. Once we got Rosie, we were already ahead of the game.”

Universal Media Studios will produce “Rosie’s Variety Show” along with O’Donnell’s Kid Ro Prods. shingle.

Details of the show were still being ironed out, but Plestis said a repertory cast will likely populate the show’s sketches, and a house band is being considered. Other details, such as marketing partners, the primetime giveaway and celeb guests, will be unveiled later.

Given the success of shows such as “American Idol” and “America’s Got Talent,” the nets have been looking at ways to revive the variety genre for some time. ABC took a stab a few years ago with a show hosted by then-marrieds Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. Earlier this year Fox cut a deal with Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne, who are prepping a six-episode skein for later this season.

“Given what’s going on in TV and with the economy, we need to entertain people and make them laugh,” Friedman said.

In the case of “Rosie,” Plestis believes the show’s New York setting and live telecasting will set it apart.

“Being live is critical for these shows to work,” he said. “You’ve got to have that element of ‘anything can happen.’ ”

O’Donnell called the chance to host a primetime variety skein “a dream come true — old-time variety, live from New York, with a nod to Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnett and memories of Sonny and Cher.”

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