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Oprah makes semi-surprise visit to 'The Rosie Show' debut

Rosie O'Donnell returned to talk TV with Russell Brand as her first guest ... but everyone was really wondering if OWN network owner Oprah might turn up, too.
/ Source: E!online

Rosie O'Donnell is back!

The Emmy-winning former daytime host returned to TV today with "The Rosie Show," her much-hyped debut on OWN, which — to be frank — is in dire need of a hit.

So, is Rosie's return that shot in the arm?

MORE: Rosie O'Donnell Talks Girlfriend, Gaydar, Oprah and Replacing Tom Cruise as No. 1 Crush

"I can't believe they let us go live!" the comedian quipped at the beginning of her opening monologue, which featured seven minutes of pretty tame stand-up, followed by questions — and lots of gushing — from the Chicago audience, which had already been buttered up by being told they were so much nicer than New Yorkers.

Oprah Winfrey

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Oprah Winfrey

From film star to media mogul, Oprah Winfrey has built an empire and secured a legion of devoted fans.

Then, clad in a Diane von Furstenberg "schmatte" and Prada shoes ("It's on the show budget, not mine. Mommy wears Crocs"), Rosie launched into an old-fashioned song-and-dance number about how she ended up in Chicago.

She poked fun at "The View" ("I told Elisabeth Hasselbeck a thing or two") and danced around with six-pack-baring dancers ("I may be gay, but I'm not dead") and otherwise got the crowd ready for Russell Brand.

"I like to think when I put my bottom somewhere that I'm the first person who's done it," the cheeky Brit said. He was then delighted to find out that The Rosie Show's live musical accompaniment was coming from Emmy-winning "D--- in a Box" writer Katrice Sparks.

MORE: Inside Rosie's new Chicago home

Brand also talked about being named three-time "Shagger of the Year" in the U.K. and related a few anecdotes from his heavy sex- and drug-abusing days, while discoursing a bit more seriously on the general perception of addiction as being criminal when it's really an illness.

Seems like your average talk show, right? Well, here's the OWN twist:

The show also featured footage of Brand visiting a rehab facility (the woman who runs it was in the audience) and talking to recovering addicts who had hit bottom before seeking treatment — a more eye-opening segment than your standard celeb Q&A, if you will.

The premiere concluded with a so-so bit called "The Ro Game," but the sheer glee emanating from the audience member who won a trip to Jamaica made up for it (this time, at least).

Earlier in the show, money matters guru and Chicago native Suze Ormond popped up, but as the hour neared its close, we of course wondered whether that other famous Chicagoan was going to show up.

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Just when we figured she'd be a no-show, out came Oprah Winfrey in a hail of premiere-celebrating confetti.

Congratulations, Rosie O-Donn-ell!

What did you think of The Rosie Show? Does OWN have a hit on its hands, or is it back to the drawing board?