February 20th, 2019


ABC confirms 'Roseanne' will move 'away from politics,' focus more on family

Emily Yahr

By Emily Yahr The Washington Post

Published May 16,2018

ABC confirms 'Roseanne' will move 'away from politics,' focus more on family
On Tuesday afternoon, ABC held a conference call to announce its fall 2018 schedule and boast about all the exciting new shows in the works. But guess what reporters really wanted to know about?

If you assumed "Roseanne," you are correct. The rebooted sitcom garnered a huge amount of viewers and controversy in its first seven weeks, with Roseanne Barr's conspiracy theory tweets and one episode's polarizing dig at ABC comedies "Blackish" and "Fresh Off the Boat."

"Roseanne," which stars Barr as a Donald Trump supporter (as she is in real life), earned 18 million overnight viewers after its premiere in March and became a political flashpoint as President Trump endorsed - and took credit for - the show's success. Though on the call, ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey pointed out that the pilot featured the most politics, as Roseanne faced off with her liberal sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf). In subsequent episodes, it delved much more on the "everyday trials and tribulations" of the Conner family.

So, for those who are wondering, the second season will move "away from politics and more focused on family," Dungey said.

And about that "Blackish" and "Fresh Off the Boat" joke: In one episode, Roseanne and Dan (John Goodman) fell asleep in front of the TV during ABC's prime-time lineup. "We missed all the shows about black and Asian families," Dan said afterwards, referencing the two previously mentioned shows. Roseanne sarcastically responded, "They're just like us. There, now you're all caught up."

That line caught backlash from many on social media, including TV writer Kelvin Yu, who wrote in part, "Consider what exactly the audience is laughing at. What exactly is the punchline here? I'll tell you what it is: it's an endorsement of dismissiveness and disregard. It's a familiarity and comfort with the culture of objectifying and demeaning people of color."

Dungey defended the "Roseanne" writers and said they were just expressing the title character's views. "I was a little bit surprised to the reaction to that line," Dungey said. "We felt like the writers were simply tipping the hat to those shows, and it certainly wasn't meant to offend."

And, as one reporter asked, does Dungey think that Barr's outside political opinions are coloring how people perceive the content of the show?

"I do think there's a little bit of that, yes," Dungey said.

Also, it seems ABC does not regret letting go of Tim Allen's "Last Man Standing" (another comedy starring a 1990s sitcom star as a conservative clashing with a liberal family.) The show's fate repeatedly "came down to the wire" as the network tried to negotiate with the studio, Twentieth Century Fox Television, Dungey said. Incidentally, "Last Man Standing" was just picked up by Fox for a new season.

Dungey reiterated that the network tries to be "as diverse and inclusive as possible" across all metrics, from race to gender to religion to economics. "Roseanne," she said, is "focusing on a family who is in different economic circumstances than some of our other comedies on the air."