Tuesday, May 29, 2018

"Roseanne" Goes Down in Flames

Well this is a cancellation I certainly didn't see coming.

When I wrote about the premiere of the revival season of "Roseanne" a couple of weeks ago, I was probably a little too optimistic. I thought that the character's support of Donald Trump was a good thing to see portrayed on television, and maybe it could help to mend the country's cultural rifts instead of deepening them. The show's creators insisted that the show wasn't going to be about politics, and mostly kept them out of spotlight, but I thought it was brave simply to bring up the incendiary subject matter in the first place.

What I did not realize was that Roseanne Barr, the actress, is a Trump supporter in real life, a conspiracy theorist, and apparently a raging bigot online. She's been parroting right wing talking points on Twitter for the past several months, which largely went ignored. However, after an especially ugly, racist tweet aimed at a former Obama advisor, ABC shockingly did the right thing and cancelled her show. Let me put that into further context. ABC cancelled the highest rated comedy currently airing on network television, and the third highest rated program overall. The success of the revival was so big, ABC built its entire Upfront presentation around it, and "Roseanne" was likely was responsible for a slew of other revivals and the un-cancellation of Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing." As one of the few outright hits of the last network television season, I fully expected the new "Roseanne" to run another hundred episodes or more.

However, as badly as I feel for everyone else involved in "Roseanne," who are now looking for work, I feel so happy that ABC made this decision, and made it so swiftly. It's exactly in keeping with the spirit of the #Metoo movement where Hollywood made several male stars persona non grata practically overnight, often massively impacting the production of current films and television series. It's also a relief to see this kind of reaction after months of Donald Trump's unhinged behavior on Twitter, where he lies and berates his political rivals constantly with impunity. Even if this kind of bullying is currently being tolerated or even encouraged in Washington D.C., it doesn't fly in the entertainment industry. It's a very strange time when Hollywood is consistently and publicly displaying more moral behavior than Capitol Hill.

The loss of the "Roseanne" revival is not a particularly great one to popular culture. I made it to the end of the current season, and debated over whether I wanted to bother writing up another post for it. The series remained consistently entertaining, but it was never as good as I wanted it to be. The episode with the Conners' new Muslim neighbors was pretty bad, but the episode where Johnny Galecki showed up as David was pretty good. All the guest spots were fun, especially Estelle Parsons' Bev shacking up with a new boyfriend played by Christopher Lloyd in Reverend Jim mode. All in all, I was hoping that the show would improve over further seasons, but that was far from a sure thing. I'm perfectly happy to let it go at this point.

Others, of course, are not. I've been watching the reactions to the cancellation unfold. There's been discussion of how the show might be salvaged by writing Roseanne out and creating a "Hogan Family" style spinoff. Or maybe a right-wing outlet might scrape the funds together to pick the show up from ABC. That's not likely, considering how much of the core talent has now gone on record distancing themselves from Roseanne Barr. Maybe co-showrunner Whitney Cummings sensed what was coming and got out ahead of the storm.

Out of everyone involved, I hope Sara Gilbert will find more work soon. Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman are much in demand and will land on their feet, but Gilbert was the one who I found that I'd really missed seeing on television, and she was a big reason why I felt that the "Roseanne" revival had a future. Now, I'm facing down another "Cosby Show" situation, wondering if the behavior of Roseanne Barr is going to end up ruining one of my favorite sitcoms for me permanently.

The situation is still shaking out as we speak, so I'm sure there will be more developments over the next few days, and the repercussions - both good and bad - are going to be felt for a long time to come.


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