The Rise & Fall Of ‘Roseanne’: ABC Defines Its Red Line


It was a day no one could have anticipated — except anyone who has been online in the past decade. ABC said Tuesday afternoon it was canceling Roseanne, one of the most popular comedy series in America, after star Roseanne Barr spent the morning spewing racist and anti-Semitic remarks on Twitter against former Barack Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Chelsea Clinton, etc.

ABC’s announcement — made by the country’s first African-American Entertainment division chief Channing Dungey — seemed to shock Reporters Who Cover Television, who for years had been listening to industry “you can’t stop Roseanne from being Roseanne” arguments.

Even some of those industry execs seemed surprised that Barr’s morning tweets crossed an ABC red line in a way her previous racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic remarks had not when the network was deciding to get back into business with her on a revival of her hit 1990s sitcom.

Exactly two weeks earlier, ABC’s annual upfront presentation was staged as a 90-minute love letter to Barr, in which she kicked things off by pointedly singing the song “My Way” — after which Disney-ABC Television Group President Ben Sherwood gave her a big hug and told advertisers to give a big round of applause to “a woman who has always done it her way.”

Which seemed to be the nose-holding, focus-on-the-ratings way the industry handled Barr — until today, when Dungey said in a succinct statement, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Robert Iger, chief of ABC parent Disney, shed no light as to what caused the Roseanne Risk/Reward to stop working for the company this morning, tweeting modestly, “There was only one thing to do here and that was the right thing.”

Roseanne ABC

It’s unclear how much ABC might be on the hook for, financially, in its extraordinary decision to abruptly pull the the plug on the 2017-18 TV season’s biggest new hit, a move that is very much against its own commercial interest. On the other hand, reports surfaced that some advertisers became alarmed by the morning’s tweets, triggering speculation that ABC might have trouble selling the show going forward.

ABC execs have acknowledged that the reboot was an effort to reach Donald Trump’s America. In the revival, Barr, an outspoken Trump supporter, returned to TV to play Roseanne Conner, now also a vocal Trump supporter. Being the darling sitcom of Trump’s base, blowback over the cancellation is expected to begin in 3 … 2 … 1 – already started:

No word yet, however, from Trump himself. Back when the show launched with a whopping 18.2 million viewers in Live+Same Day ratings, he raved at a rally, “Look at Roseanne! Look at her ratings! … Over 18 million people. And it’s about us!”

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