Count me among those feeling let down and disgusted today by Roseanne Barr. Here was a good news story destroyed by a stupid, selfish act.
Kudos to ABC/Disney for spiking the show within three hours of her racist and offensive Twitter implosion. The network knew who they were hiring when they got back into business with Roseanne. That she could not be reigned in ultimately cost multi-millions of dollars in terms of domestic and foreign sales. If Barr thought she could act with impunity because she was back as a money machine, well, welcome to the 21st century.
I saw Barr perform a month ago at the Rose Theatre in Brampton. You’d expect her live show to be edgier and more outrageous than her TV show and while it was, it was not offensive. There was no clue that she could kill her career due to the fact that she could not control her mouth. Instead, folks who saw her live seemed as glad she was back as viewers who embraced, by the millions, her revived sitcom.
That she has, in an instant, torpedoed her career and taken all her co-workers with her is a crime. You could feel the buoyancy in the hotel banquet room back in January when the Roseanne cast and producers gathered at the Television Critics Association press tour in Pasadena, Calif. Sarah Gilbert, who went from TV daughter to executive producer, was justifiably proud of her work in the re-launch. Many others I spoke with were too, including Sarah Chalke and Michael Fishman.
All of the cast members, however, were shocked at how the session turned ugly as questions were repeatedly raised about Roseanne Barr’s past Twitter behaviour. Reporters in that room were onto that story back in January. We could smell this implosion coming five months ago.
Then there is the ripple effect internationally. The rights holder in Canada, CTV, is busy as you read this scrubbing the stink from Roseanne out of their June 7 upfront presentation. They were all ready to boast about having the No. 1 new series, a solid 18-49 demo winner. The Numeris ratings report for the week of May 14-20, which was released Tuesday, showed Roseanne as CTV’s top show of the week at 1.5 million total viewers — a bigger audience then what the Royal Wedding drew that same week on the same network.
Reruns of the old show have also been pulled from half a dozen services, including one only available in Canada off an antenna — Laff. Roseanne is now no laffing matter.
Here’s my prediction, however: TV is a hardball business where nothing is over until the last penny is pinched off the eyes. Right now, I’m betting, lawyers are working overtime trying to determine if this tainted show can go on without its main star.
Can ABC pull a “Hogan Family” out of the hat? Back when Roseanne was new, The Hogan Family was originally called Valerie and starred Valerie Harper as a single mom raising three kids. After a season or so, star Harper locked horns with NBC over money and was replaced with Sandy Duncan. The show even survived a network shift to CBS before sputtering to cancellation.
The Hogan Family was no ratings juggernaut like Roseanne but it set a precedent. In more recent times, actors have been tossed off CSI‘s for daring to get into a blinking war with CBS boss Leslie Moonves. Nobody is irreplaceable, especially when there is money to be made.
Look for The Conner Family to rise out of the ashes of Roseanne. The other actors — John Goodman, Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf, Chalke, Lecy Goranson and Fishman, as well as the new child actors — all deserve to continue the good start the revival has made. The writing team, including Canadian Norm Macdonald and comedian Wanda Sykes, have more stories to tell.
Wouldn’t you want to see them all try to work their way out of this corner? The Conner Family would open huge next fall, even without Roseanne. Hell, they could bring Tom Arnold on board as a funeral director, scattering Roseanne Conner’s ashes all over a laptop keyboard. Whether it is back on ABC or moves to Netflix — don’t tell me it won’t happen.