News / TV

The rise and fall and rise and fall of Roseanne

What to make of Roseanne Barr?

Yet another hot take?


Her personal and professional lives, to both the most casual observers and the most ardent fans, have ridden the metaphorical rollercoaster for more than three decades now. And it’s all been well documented. From her initial breakthrough as a “domestic goddess” on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Rodney Dangerfield’s stand-up specials.

To her ABC sitcom a year later, which became a hit despite Roseanne fighting with the show’s creator, producers and other writers, and gave each of her three husbands on-air roles on the show.

To her infamous takedown of the National Anthem at a baseball game (see how far we’ve come as a country in three decades, still fighting over how people honor or dishonor the anthem?).

She was out of the public eye for a while, it seemed. And then social media brought her back into our collective consciousness.

At the turn of the decade, she had bought the farm, quite literally — taking wordplay and self-awareness to its extreme with Roseanne’s Nuts, a reality series for Lifetime that didn’t quite last its first and only season in 2011. The network buried its final episodes in a different time slot.

When I spoke to her four years ago, she was looking forward to judging Last Comic Standing.

That NBC reality competition gave a new generation a chance to see her, and the previous generations to remember what she had been, and with the peak of Revival TV here and now, of course Roseanne would get another shot with Roseanne. With or without the ascension of Trump.

Roseanne has followed, unfollowed, followed me again, and unfollowed me again on social media.

I’ve tried following her online musings at times, but there’s so much to shovel through, and you didn’t have to take her previous political forays seriously to know that she wasn’t going to ever stop sharing her opinions with the world, whether we wanted to hear them or not, and certainly whether or not she should ever learn to think before she Tweets. In that sense, Roseanne really is a lot like Trump.

So nobody should have acted surprised this week when Roseanne went too far once more, proving that it’s just as difficult to separate the art from the artist for racists as it is for rapists.

Wanda Sykes, the comedy legend who put Roseanne Barr in the judging seat for Last Comic and served as a producer and writer for Roseanne, wasted no time quitting. She’d heard and seen enough.

The decision to pull the plug on Roseanne after one hit season of a revival, despite just touting the show and its star to advertisers earlier in May, was nonetheless swift. Channing Dungey, President of ABC Entertainment, wrote: “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Her boss, Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger, added: “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing.”

The decision upends the lives of hundreds of other people who worked on the sitcom, although rumors swirl of network brass pondering the idea of continuing it instead as a spin-off to keep the schedule and the show somewhat intact, albeit without Roseanne. Barr lost her agents at ICM. The show also lost rerun deals with Hulu and other syndicates. And ABC abruptly dropped any promotion of the show for Emmy consideration.

Tom Werner, who had been down this road before with Roseanne before as EP from 1988-1997 and reunited with her for the 2017-2018 revival, supported ABC’s decision.

“I support ABC’s decision to cancel the show in the wake of Roseanne Barr’s most recent reprehensible tweets,” Werner said. “Our goal was to promote constructive discussion about the issues that divide us. It represented the work of hundreds of talented people. I hope the good work done is not totally eclipsed by these abhorrent and offensive comments, and that Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs.”

This, of course, is not the end for Roseanne Barr. Even if it is the unseemly end for Roseanne.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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