Returning Roseanne will kick off Tuesdays in the fall, leading into new 70’s-set single-cam comedy The Kids Are Alright, about a large working class-family sharing close quarters. Roseanne redux was the biggest hit of the 2017-18 broadcast season, despite – or because of – being a 30 year-old show headlined by an outspoken Trump supporter, playing a character who is an outspoken Trump supporter.
Its debut ratings were so stunningly large, President Donald Trump called Roseanne Barr to congratulate her – and then took credit for her numbers.
This season’s first episode “did touch on some of that in the first episode in a very funny way,” Dungey acknowledged of the star/character’s Trump support in a phone presser before her Upfront presentation.
But, the ABC Entertainment chief insisted, that was in perfect keeping with conversations you’d expect Roseanne Connor and sister Jackie to have had after the election, reflecting issues and conversations real American families were having at dining tables across the country.
“That said, having touched on that in the first episode of the season,” ABC will look for Season 2 to focus not so much on politics as “family trials and tribulations,” she said.
But she acknowleged Roseanne Barr’s personal politics impact the series’ reception, saying “I do think there is a little bit of that.”
Despite Roseanne’s runaway success, ABC’s new schedule is not thick with multi-cam comedies. The network was far along in this season’s development and pilot ordering before it re-launched Roseanne and realized it had a ratings behemoth on its hands, Dungey explained.
“We at ABC have not had as much success with [multi-cam comedies] traditionally as competitors,” she noted. “Roseanne changed the game in that respect,” she observed. But, she’s looking forward to going into the next development season and looking at doing more.
Roseanne is in keeping with ABC’s longstanding emphasis on family comedies, and fits well into the network’s Tuesday comedy block already in place, the exec said.
Asked if ABC regretted cancelling Tim Allen multi-cam comedy Last Man Standing two seasons back, Dungey said that decision had been made “with the best information we had at the time.”
Fox, whose sister studio produces the comedy, announced earlier this week it was bringing the series back on its primetime slate.
ABC aired Last Man Standing for a couple of years, in which it got “down to the wire” if it would be able to make a deal that made sense, Dungey reminded. “That year, we were not able to come to terms and bring it back. But I wish them every success with that show,” she said.
Asked if Roseanne’s success will affect programming decisions made going forward, Dungey responded that ABC always strives for a schedule as “diverse and inclusive as possible” in various metrics, including race, gender, religion “and also economic perspective.” Roseanne, she said, was “fresh for us…focusing on a family who is in different economic circumstances than a number of other comedies on our air.”
Per usual for ABC, the network has ordered 13 episodes for this coming season, Roseanne having been a mid-season starter, Dungey explained when reporters seemed surprised the TV season’s most successful new series had not snagged a larger order.
“We love the show and would happily do as many [episodes] as possible, but for the moment we’re happy with the 13,” Dungey said.
She also got asked about a joke in one of the aired episodes referencing other ABC comedies that rubbed some the wrong way. The episode saw Roseanne and Dan Conner (John Goodman) wake up after falling asleep watching ABC and realize they missed all the programs between Wheel of Fortune and Jimmy Kimmel Live.
“We missed all the shows about black and Asian families,” Dan said, referencing black-ish and Fresh off the Boat.
“They’re just like us,” Roseanne shot back, adding, “There, now you’re all caught up.”
“I was a bit surprised to the reaction to that line,” Dungey admitted, saying she thought Roseanne writers were simply tipping their hat to those other series, and that the exchange was “not meant to offend.”
“They felt they were expressing the viewpoint of the Connors – what they would have said,” she added.
The “overnight” sensation previously held the top spot as the most watched program on television 28 years ago, during the 1989-90 TV season when there were only three fully-fledged networks, with Fox only programming two nights a week.