ABC To Bring Back Roseanne Without Roseanne

ABC is bringing back Roseanne without Roseanne Barr. Whether that will prove to be a success or not remains to be seen.

Less than a month after ABC announced that it was canceling the second season of the reboot of Roseanne in response to a serious of racist tweets sent out by the shows eponymous star Roseanne Barr, it now looks like they’ll be going forward with a reboot of Roseanne without Roseanne:

Roseanne Barr may be finished, but the Conners are not.

Less than a month after ABC canceled the hit revival of “Roseanne” because of a racist tweet by Ms. Barr, the network has decided to go forward with a spinoff that will not include her. ABC said that Ms. Barr would not receive any payment from the network for the series, which is tentatively titled “The Conners.”

The spinoff, scheduled to air on ABC in the fall, will include the principal “Roseanne” cast members John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert. The producers who ran “Roseanne,” including Tom Werner of Werner Entertainment, and the show’s writing staff will also return. The new anchor of the Conner family is expected to be Darlene, the Roseanne character’s younger daughter, who is played by Ms. Gilbert. The season will be 10 episodes.

Before ABC approved the spinoff, Ms. Barr and Werner Entertainment agreed on a financial settlement, according to a person briefed on recent discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe negotiations that took place among the star, producers and executives. That person would not reveal the sum of the payment.

In a statement on Thursday, Ms. Barr said, “I regret the circumstances that have caused me to be removed from ‘Roseanne.’ I agreed to the settlement in order that 200 jobs of beloved cast and crew could be saved, and I wish the best for everyone involved.”

ABC canceled “Roseanne” on May 29, hours after Ms. Barr used her Twitter account to liken Valerie Jarrett, a former special adviser to President Barack Obama who is African-American, to the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”

How the new show’s writers will explain the absence of the Conner family matriarch remains an open question, but a description included as part of an ABC press statement on Thursday referred to “a sudden turn of events” that forces the Conners to “face the daily struggles of life in Lanford in a way they never have before.”

“Roseanne” was a critical and commercial success for ABC during its original incarnation from 1988 to 1997. The reboot premiered on the network on March 27. It was born of a strategy hatched by ABC executives during a meeting at the network’s Burbank headquarters on the day after Donald J. Trump won the 2016 presidential election.

Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment, described ABC’s thinking in an interview with The New York Times published two days after the “Roseanne” premiere. “We had spent a lot of time looking for diverse voices in terms of people of color and people from different religions and even people with a different perspective on gender,” she said. “But we had not been thinking nearly enough about economic diversity and some of the other cultural divisions within our own country.”

The ratings for “Roseanne” surprised ABC executives, who said the size of the audience was more than twice what they had expected. President Trump was enthralled by the ratings numbers and made a congratulatory call to the show’s star.

Discussions about the possibility of saving the show in some form began almost as soon as ABC had announced its decision canceling the show at the end of May. Apparently spurred by actress Sara Gibert, who has played the role Darlene Connor since the show first premiered back in 1988 and who played a prominent role in the reboot, and others the showrunner and writers of the show began pitching the idea to ABC executives who were obviously looking at what had suddenly become a big hole in their schedule in addition to the fact that they had lost one of the most successful shows of the year when it made the decision to cancel the show. Slowly but surely, some of the other co-stars, including John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, came out in favor of the idea. There was just one complication. The entire idea for the show came largely from Barr herself and she would stand to gain financially from any reboot that included the same characters, something that ABC still objected to and which appeared as if it would prevent the project from going forward. Based on this report, it seems as though the network and the studio have reached a settlement with Barr that would provide that she would derive no financial benefit from the rebooted series, although one can assume that she received some monetary settlement in exchange.

As for the show itself, your guess is as good as mine as to what a Roseanne-less Roseanne (or whatever it ends up being called) will look like. As Daniel Bukszpan notes in a piece at CNBC, there are some examples in the past of shows remaking themselves after the loss of a major character, or redefining a character from a previous show, and doing so in a way that proved to be successful. There are also, however, as many examples of shows that quickly went downhill after the unplanned, unexpected loss of a major character. Given that, it’s hard to say what direction the new show might take, but it’s likely it will get media attention at least in the beginning due largely to the circumstances that led to its creation. As I said when the show was canceled, I had only really watched the first episode of the revived series this year, so I’m obviously not part of the intended audience for whatever form the new show may take. That being said, it will be interesting to see how this new show does without the person who originated the entire premise for the show thirty years ago at the center.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, Popular Culture, Race and Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    The linked article is pretty poor in that it doesn’t distinguish spinoffs like Lou Grant from shows that lost main characters. But Valerie becoming The Hogan Family is an exact analogy, even to the changes in the show’s titles, and one people have been joking about on Twitter since ABC first dropped Roseanne.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @Mike Schilling: Indeed. The “Valerie” example is the one that most obviously came to my mind. Indeed, it was originally “Valerie’s Family” before rebranding as “The Hogan Family.”

  3. @Mike Schilling:

    I realize the “Lou Grant” is somewhat out of place with the others, but it does bring up one suggestion that I’ve seen bounced around in the weeks since the cancelation. Namely, that they could redo the show as one focused on John Goodman’s character in a dramatic rather than comedic role akin to what they did with Ed Asner’s character.

    I’m not sure how that would work, though.

    Grant, though, is one example of a character that survived more than one incarnation, although we have seen others such as Kelsey Grammer’s Fraiser Crane (“Cheers” and “Fraiser”) and Richard Belzer’s Det. John Munch, who appeared on both Homicide: Life On The Street and Law & Order: SVU.

  4. Mikey says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Namely, that they could redo the show as one focused on John Goodman’s character in a dramatic rather than comedic role akin to what they did with Ed Asner’s character.

    Or they could just bring Goodman back, but this time as Walter Sobchak.

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    Hello Larry!

    Sure wish McLean Stevenson would have stayed on TV M*A*S*H.
    I’ll bet he wished he had too!

  6. James Pearce says:

    This seems designed to placate the folks who were concerned that an entire cast would be the collateral damage to their preening intolerance, and yeah, those people are not going to watch “the Connors” either.

  7. Mr. Prosser says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Goodman portraying a more serious family leader would make me watch the show, his range, face and voice make him a great film actor. Having the others, Metcalf and Gilbert especially, be allowed to become more nuanced could make it a fine show.

  8. Electroman says:

    @Mister Bluster: The other stars sure didn’t. There’s a reason he was written out of the show in a way that precluded returning.

  9. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Goodman wasn’t known 25-30 years ago; he’s had time since to wrack up successes and a large fan base. I think the John Goodman Show should do well.

    If he quits, however, I think it would be all over.

  10. Mister Bluster says:

    @E-man:
    Seems like I might of seen something about that reading the tabloids waiting in the check out line at the A+P Market.
    Can’t really remember what happened. Must have been an azzhole. Imagine that.

  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Actually, I’ll watch it now. Laurie Metcalf is a superb actor, John Goodman is an always-welcome presence, and we do need shows showcasing the working class. If the writing’s good I’ll DVR it.

  12. @Not the IT Dept.:

    Goodman has signaled that he’d be on board for a rebooted show.

  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    If we’re doing people who should never have left shows: Denise Crosby, still known primarily as Tasha Yar from Star Trek NG. Her post-Trek career was little more than guest spots as grieving mothers and suspects on other shows.

  14. Mister Bluster says:

    My favorite spin off was Mrs. Columbo

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    JLo should have never left the Fly Girls!

  16. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “This seems designed to placate the folks who were concerned that an entire cast would be the collateral damage to their preening intolerance, and yeah, those people are not going to watch “the Connors” either”

    Yes, because the TV business is all about placating people who worry about whether actors are making money, whether or not there’s a potential audience for a show. Flop series are left on the air all the time for fear of pissing off random people who would otherwise fret that the supporting actors might have to find another job.

    Or maybe it’s possible the the people who run Disney actually know a little bit more about the television business than you do.

    I realize you know more about politics than everyone in the entire world, but is it possible that this is one area where your knowledge is not supreme?

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  17. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Actually, I’ll watch it now. Laurie Metcalf is a superb actor, John Goodman is an always-welcome presence, and we do need shows showcasing the working class.

    I’d rather see Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman in other projects, though.

    I’m all for shows showcasing the working class, but I think they would benefit from some working class writers who graduated from the School of Hard Knocks rather than Intersectional University.

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  18. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Her post-Trek career was little more than guest spots as grieving mothers and suspects on other shows.”

    I cast her in an episode once, and she did a good job. Wasn’t really my place to ask her why she’d left Trek, although I was certainly curious. But not every actor who leaves a hit show is David Caruso, thinking he’s going to be a movie star. (Or Bruce Willis, for whom it worked out a little better…) We never know what’s going on behind the scenes, what makes a job that seems like a dream to us feel unbearable to the person who holds it. I have no idea if Denise Crosby regrets leaving Trek, but I do know of other actors who walked away from potentially lucrative or even star-making gigs because they weren’t worth the price.

    The flip side of Crosby’s career, by the way, is Terry Farrell’s. She looked nuts when she walked away from Deep Space Nine after six years — but that show ended a year later and she immediately stepped into a major supporting part in the sitcom Becker which lasted for another four…

  19. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If we’re doing people who should never have left shows: Denise Crosby,

    Absolutely.

    Her most memorable role after she left Star Trek, must have been the time she returned to Star Trek to play alternate-Tasha’s half Romulan daughter.

    On the other hand, her departure made room for Michael Dorn’s character, Worf, to grow as a person.

  20. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “’m all for shows showcasing the working class, but I think they would benefit from some working class writers who graduated from the School of Hard Knocks rather than Intersectional University.”

    What the f@ck do you know about any of the lives of any of the writers who worked on any version of Roseanne? Your arrogance is breathtaking.

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  21. Gustopher says:

    Am I the only one hoping that her character is explained to have been killed by an illegal alien while she was investigating child sex trafficking in a pizza parlor?

  22. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    Wouldn’t it be funnier if she were to be inadvertently eaten by Donnie Dennison?

  23. James Pearce says:

    @wr: You’re in TV casting? That explains a lot actually…

  24. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Not any more. 🙂

  25. wr says:

    @James Pearce: I’m a writer, producer and director. And yes, that does explain a lot. I hold one of the most sought-after careers in the world, and I’ve held it for more than 30 years.

    What’s your claim to fame?

  26. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    I hold one of the most sought-after careers in the world, and I’ve held it for more than 30 years.

    It must be strange, then, to have a guy respond to that with a “Pffft” instead of “Will you read my screenplay?”

    And, look, I’m a cinephile so I don’t really want to denigrate you or your profession, but a 30 year career in such an exploitative, greedy industry may explain why your janky politics is marked by such an accumulation of liberal guilt/shame.

    I’m a cinephile, it’s true, but even I’m uncomfortable with rent-seeking IP empires, casting couch grossness, union-busting “runaway” productions, paying women less while judging them more, kowtowing to foreign censorship, “creative” Hollywood accounting, massaging the egos of monsters, and many, many other horrible business practices.

    The production of hot dogs is less disgusting.

  27. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:

    I’m a cinephile, it’s true, but even I’m uncomfortable with rent-seeking IP empires, casting couch grossness, union-busting “runaway” productions, paying women less while judging them more, kowtowing to foreign censorship, “creative” Hollywood accounting, massaging the egos of monsters, and many, many other horrible business practices.

    I agree with all of that. But it does nothing to support your assumption that the Roseanne writers were unfamiliar with the working class, does it?

  28. wr says:

    @James Pearce: So tell me, oh moral exemplar, what exactly is it that you do that allows you to stay so pure?

    Oh, that’s right. Like J@nos and JKB and Bungles, you’ll never say. Wonder why that could be.

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    But it does nothing to support your assumption that the Roseanne writers were unfamiliar with the working class, does it?

    I made no assumptions; I was sloppy with my pronouns.

    Let me revise for clarity

    I’m all for shows showcasing the working class, but I think [shows about the working class] would benefit from some working class writers who graduated from the School of Hard Knocks rather than Intersectional University.

  30. wr says:

    @James Pearce: How is that revised? You’re still claiming to have knowledge that the writers of Roseanne don’t come from what you consider and acceptable background. You know nothing about these people, how they grew up, where they went to school, why they write the way they do. You are just assuming that they are less morally pure than you, because, apparently, you are the entirety of the working class.

  31. James Pearce says:

    @wr:

    So tell me, oh moral exemplar, what exactly is it that you do that allows you to stay so pure?

    The secret is simple: Whiskey, weed, and Black Sabbath.

    You’re still claiming to have knowledge

    No, I’m not claiming anything about the writers of Roseanne: past, present, or future.

    What I’m claiming is that shows about the working class should not be written by young MFA types with their heads full of social justice nonsense. They’re liable to think the working class consists of Hispanic maids and no one else.

  32. wr says:

    @James Pearce: “What I’m claiming is that shows about the working class should not be written by young MFA types with their heads full of social justice nonsense. They’re liable to think the working class consists of Hispanic maids and no one else.”

    Again, how the hell do you claim to know that this show is written by “young MFA types”? Let alone what “young MFA types” or any other writers are “liable to think.”

    I’d offer to introduce you to some of my students so you could see how wrong you are, but what’s the point? You’re a sad little bigot, marinating in his own sanctimony and quite happy that way. May you live a long and prosperous life and never encounter anything that might shake your prejudices.