T Dog’s Think Tank: ABC did right thing by dumping “Roseanne”

Decision was made to protect their business interests after she became unhinged – but she never should have been rehired in the first place

As one who refused to join the chorus of praise regarding the Roseanne reboot – and this person has had his fill of “reboots” already, ABC indeed “did the right thing” by cancelling the show after the star of the show made several racist and anti-Semitic tweets.

But the praise for ABC stops here.

From my vantage point, rebooting Roseanne was a bad idea, given the headaches she caused the first time around for the network, and everyone else. For one, she was a pain to work with – just ask Matt Williams and Chuck Lorre.

After the original version of her sitcom ended, Barr got together with King World so she can become the next Oprah and launched her own daytime talk show in 1998 in two-year deals with stations. There was turmoil of course with ratings so bad, the NBC-owned stations who carried her show dropped it after one season. Undaunted, King World (who by this time was acquired by CBS) continued the show until the contracts ran out, even without clearances in top markets such as Chicago and New York.

And now after 20 years, Barr is suddenly back in the public eye thanks to this “reboot wave” as the broadcast networks look for anything – anything! – to stem declining ratings as viewers continue to leave linear television for alternatives such as Netflix and Amazon. They must’ve been desperate because someone at ABC obviously didn’t look at her Twitter account – filled with baseless conspiracy theories and racist jokes. On the day her show was canceled, she “quit” Twitter – but returned later in the day ripping into her now- former castmates and once again retweeting false conspiracies, including one who suggested former First Lady Michelle Obama had a hand in the program’s cancellation.

And then there’s the infamous photo in a Hitler costume.

So the question is, why did ABC decided to return to business with this heifer?

Simple. Media executives seem to think this “shock jock” mentality still sells, as if it were 1994. There was Disney-ABC President Ben Sherwood at the upfronts, celebrating Barr as she came out to media buyers as most didn’t seem to give a fuck if she was there or not. She was branded about as a hero and acted like she “saved” the network, something Regis Philbin did some twenty years ago with more class. It was irksome.

“Roseanne” wound up the season as the top-rated show on TV in 2018.

Ask those of us who follow Chicago media as radio hosts Mancow Muller and former Rep. Joe Walsh and executives like Marv Nyren and Randy Michaels get second chances, and screw up again and again because their jobs were never in jeopardy (although Mancow lost his as WLUP went belly up.) Meanwhile, diversity is an afterthought in Chicago where people of color make up nearly 40 percent of the DMA (designated market area) – but far less in management and in other media roles.

And don’t forget the national media scene. Where else a simpleton like Jeff Zucker – who screwed up NBC – is now running CNN? Meanwhile, Bill Maher says the n-word on his HBO show and gets a pass because he’s “liberal” – on a network where they let now-retired boxing commentator Larry Merchant disparage minority fighters for years without repercussion.

With all of this said, I’ve never been a fan of Roseanne Barr, or any iteration of her shows as I never watched a single minute of her old sitcom. And when I watched the premiere of her reboot, I wasn’t impressed as the dialogue seemed forced and awkward, and was simply not funny. And taking a swipe at other shows’ diversity on the same network was misplaced humor at its worst – particularly at a time when racial disparity in network television and media in general is under tight scrutiny – an issue I’ve written about on this blog for years. And the strange thing about this is ABC has championed diversity more so than the other broadcast networks.

And yet, they bring back a 65-year old classless hag as the face of the network.

Of course, the humanoids got a kick out of it – more than 25 million viewers tuned in to Roseanne’s return on March 27, but ratings slipped a bit each week. And even a few critics compared this season’s finale to the show’s infamous ninth season, easily considered the worst of the franchise.

Certainly, the racist comments Barr made put ABC – and their owned stations and affiliates in a tough position and they did what they had to do, unprecedented as it was. I’ll bet you a steak dinner at the local Porterhouse that WLS-TV management went into static shock after Barr made those comments and envisioned the organizers behind The Black Women’s Expo and The Bud Billiken Parade ending their sponsorships and walking across the street to a competitor. Local stations spent years building up relationships with their communities – only to be shattered by some ignorant “TV star” in a tweet. ABC had no choice but to cancel the show, not only to protect their reputation, but those of its business partners, i.e. affiliates and owned stations.

Yes, we know Barr is a Trump supporter, but that’s besides the point. Giving someone a platform to make false, lawsuit-worthy comments and being an overall asshole on social media isn’t exactly a great business plan in the long-term. The mantra in the media business is these mistakes are made over and over again and nobody learns anything from the experience.

And that’s the sad part.