“Roseanne” revival hits a home run

Premiere is highest-rated of the season

A few weeks ago, a writer from Mediapost said the return of American Idol on ABC “saved” the television industry.

He might want to revise his article.

In stunning news, the revival of Roseanne won big time in the ratings for ABC – averaging a 5.2 rating in the adults 18-49 demo for ABC in the lead-off time slot Tuesday night. The revival stomped over its competition, drawing 6.6 million viewers in the 18-49 demo and 18.8 million overall. In overnight ratings, Roseanne drew a 11.7/19 in Nielsen’s 56 metered markets.

In Chicago, ABC 7 scored a whopping 16.8 household overnight rating, good enough for fifth place among metered markets and finished fourth among all markets in the adults 18-49 demo with a 8.1 rating. Tulsa’s KTUL took top honors in households with a 19.0.

Among adults 18-49, the number was the highest for any scripted series on network television since a 2015 episode of Empire and the highest for any sitcom since 2014.

Roseanne also did something American Idol couldn’t do – beat NBC’s The Voice, who had a 1.7 demo rating and nine million viewers.

The revival was generally liked by critics, with a 83 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes and a 79 score on Metacritic. Given it’s political bent, it would be curious to see what the Conners think of Illinois’ politics and its dire financial situation, given the family lives in the state – in far suburban Chicago no less.

A “Roseanne” trade ad in an November 1990 issue of Broadcasting & Cable, prepping for a 1992 off-net syndication debut.

The original version of Roseanne was a big hit for ABC when it premiered in October 18, 1988 and was the top-rated TV show of the 1989-90 season, dethroning The Cosby Show after four seasons (both Cosby and Roseanne were produced by The Carsey-Werner Co.) The show’s final season was notoriously known for several bizarre plot twists, including the family appearing on Jerry Springer (which was a hot property at the time) and the Connors winning the lottery – revealed to be nothing more than a fictitious memoir written by the show’s title character.

In 1990, Viacom sold Roseanne into syndication for a paltry $1.5 million an episode (compared to a whopping $4 million for Cosby – also sold by Viacom and $2.5 million for Who’s The Boss?) with WNYW in New York, KCOP in Los Angeles, and WPWR in Chicago coming on board. Roseanne was a huge off-network smash, ranking as the top off-net sitcom in syndication from its debut in 1992 to 1995, when it was dethroned by Home Improvement. Roseanne was a huge hit for WPWR, with ratings for its 5:30 p.m. airing often-drawing the CBS Evening News in the Chicago market. After Viacom merged with Paramount in 1994, Carsey-Werner reacquired syndication rights to its library, including Roseanne.

Off-network episodes have aired on cable networks TBS, We, Nick at Nite, TVLand, CMT, and diginet Laff.

Roseanne’s performance Tuesday is indeed good news for broadcast network television, who continues to see year-to-year audience erosion. So if we are talking about anyone saving television, it turned out to be an aging, outspoken loudmouth rather than a bunch of karaoke signers – and the industry is probably better off. And who knows? If Roseanne hangs around long enough, she might be able to save the struggling off-network syndication business as well.

Did you know? Roseanne Barr also had a daytime first-run syndicated talk show strip from 1998 to 2000, with the NBC-owned stations as a launch group. In Chicago, The Roseanne Show replaced Springer in the 2 p.m. time slot after NBC-owned WMAQ was forced to give up the latter show, and ratings in the time slot predictably tumbled. Despite NBC dropping the show in top markets after its first season, King World continued on with The Roseanne Show until September 2000 when it ended. Of note it was the first national television series to be produced digitally.