Rosie O’Donnell tapes her new show, “The Rosie Show,” Thursday, October 6, 2011 at Harpo Studios in Chicago. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times

Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show ends a day early

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The short life of “The Rosie Show” got even shorter Thursday when OWN aired the finale of the anemically rated program a day early.

Talk show host Rosie O’Donnell did the equivalent of slipping quietly out the back door when she capped off Thursday’s broadcast not with any parting words, but with a performance by singer Josh Kelley.

Kelley’s performance had been taped – and had aired – a few months ago, back when O’Donnell was doing her show in front of an audience in a much larger space at Chicago’s Harpo Studios.

The show since had been stripped of its live band, game show segments and confetti showers in favor of a small, quiet set where O’Donnell presided over one-on-one interviews.

The retooling couldn’t save the daily talk show, which was drawing fewer than 200,000 viewers on the fledgling Oprah Winfrey Network. OWN announced this month that it was pulling the plug, less than six months after the program started. The final episode had been scheduled to air Friday.

“It’s the last show,” O’Donnell said at the top of the evening broadcast on Thursday, hours after she tweeted a picture of herself “opening some #oprah wine – a toast 2 the final show tonight.”

Her last guests were “CSI: Miami” actress Eva La Rue and a woman who made a documentary about crop circles.

“Have you all noticed at home as the show gets closer to the end, my neckline plunges?” she joked at the top of the program. “We’re pulling out all the stops.”

One of O’Donnell’s staffers then came on the set to read his resume aloud. But any levity gave way to a more somber tone as the program went on. By the time O’Donnell cut to the Kelley clip, she looked like she might have been a little choked up.

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