The Winners and Losers of Roseanne's Cancellation

Say goodbye to the Conners once again.
Say goodbye to the Conners once again. Courtesy of ABC.
If you pay even minimal attention to the business side of television, then you know that ABC’s revival of Roseanne was one of the biggest winners of the 2017-18 season. Hell, it was one of the only winners of the year. Sure, the ratings slid as its season went on, but it still finished ahead of everything that wasn’t sports, a slam dunk success that not only helped ABC but got Tim Allen back on the air. And now it’s been canceled in a one-line statement from ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey.

Let this be a lesson to everyone that despite the rise of white nationalism in this country and our penchant for celebrity worship, you can’t just jump on social media and compare an African American to an ape without some repercussions if you have a show on network television.

It’s not really a surprise that the wave of success wasn’t enough to keep show star Roseanne Barr from saying racist things on the internet. It’s not really a surprise that ABC felt that they had to do something about what she said. It is somewhat surprising that they canceled it so fast. Perhaps it’s just that the last few years of awfulness in popular society had conditioned me to believe that people are willing to put up with a little racism here and there if it means money in their pocket, but I thought that, at the very least, ABC would wait a day or two to see if they could brave the storm, perhaps even considering retooling the show, before pulling the plug on it. But they did it before lunchtime even arrived on the West Coast.

I have no opinion on the Roseanne revival. I watched all of two minutes of it over the weekend, and it seemed fine enough; whether that credit belongs to the writers, production staff, or John Goodman being an amazing actor I do not know and won’t be going back to find out. For me at least, the drama around the show was entertainment enough, and I must say that the series finale of ABC’s Attempt to Monetize Trump Voters ended in a way I don’t think any of us really saw coming. Here’s a brief look at the winners and losers:

3. Entertainment Reporters

Roseanne provided so many options for think pieces that coverage of the show was pretty much inescapable earlier in the year. With fewer shows doing huge ratings on the networks, it’ll be interesting to see how they adapt to a post-Roseanne world. Again.

2. ABC
Canceling the show was the right move—if you think racist ape jokes in 2018 are cool just know that I’m ashamed to share a species with you—but it was a terrible business decision. People would have watched next season. Ratings would have dipped, but I don’t think they would have fallen off a cliff. Now they’re tasked with replacing a monster they created and will have to answer questions about why they went into business with her again in the first place.

1. Sara Gilbert
Listen, someone was going to have to take the title for “worst take related to all of this,” and reducing what Barr said to “the opinions and words of one cast member” on a show that literally carries Barr’s name is incredible. Every day there are people who punch into jobs working with racists they can't stand because they can't afford to lose that job. Gilbert wanted to be in the Roseanne business, even with Barr's problematic history. That's why she spearheaded the revival and served as an executive producer on the show. She, and anyone else who decided to jump into business with Roseanne knowing who she is, don't even deserve to get a song from the world's smallest violin.

3. Arrested Development

Because hey, at least no one is talking about how Jeffrey Tambor is a monster or that Jason Bateman is a mansplaining dick.

2. Republicans
Surf the comments under stories about the cancellation on Twitter to see a whole bunch of people who think no one should ever joke about Sarah Sanders ever handwave away racism because “it was a joke.” Thanks, ABC, for giving them an example to point to the next time they want to talk about how persecuted they are in this country.

1. Roseanne Barr
It’s not impossible that between me typing this, my editor editing it, and it going online that President Trump will take a break out of his busy schedule to talk about how ABC made a HUGE MISTAKE canceling the show. Hell, she might even get a White House invite out of the deal. I wouldn’t even be 100 percent shocked if she has a new TV deal somewhere at the start of the 2019-20 season. Clearly she has a fanbase, and if things continue the way they are, some network will get desperate enough to give her a chance. America does love a comeback story.
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Cory Garcia is a Contributing Editor for the Houston Press. He once won an award for his writing, but he doesn't like to brag about it. If you're reading this sentence, odds are good it's because he wrote a concert review you don't like or he wanted to talk pro wrestling.
Contact: Cory Garcia