Roseanne cut leaves crew in the lurch

The show Roseanne, starring Roseanne Barr and John Goodman (both left), was axed last week after Barr posted a racist tweet.
The show Roseanne, starring Roseanne Barr and John Goodman (both above), was axed last week after Barr posted a racist tweet.PHOTO: ABC

WASHINGTON • Last month, Anne Ahrens received a phone call asking if she could work as a set decorator on an upcoming television project.

The week in May, when networks announce their new shows, always involves a big scramble for jobs, she explained, as they look to quickly staff the picked-up series before they start production over the summer.

But Ahrens turned down the offer. "I said, 'Oh, I'm going back to Roseanne, so I'm not available,'" she recalled.

She got another call last Tuesday, from her assistant, who wondered if she had seen what Roseanne Barr had tweeted that morning.

He scrolled through Twitter as they spoke and discovered within minutes that ABC had axed the show after its star called former United States president Barack Obama's adviser Valerie Jarrett a product of the "Muslim brotherhood" and "planet of the apes".

Just like that, someone's racist tweet cost Ahrens her job for the latter half of the year: "So, yeah. That happened."

She does not deny that it was the right move on behalf of the network, whose president, Ms Channing Dungey, deemed Barr's words "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values".

But Ahrens is also one of the couple of hundred people who have lost the opportunity to work on what became one of the top-rated shows on broadcast television.

The cast and crew must find new gigs, having missed the scramble by just two weeks.

Some might emerge from the brouhaha financially unscathed.

Three of the series' stars - Sara Gilbert, who spearheaded the revival, plus Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman - had recently negotiated deals to receive US$300,000 (S$400,000) an episode for the 11th season, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and expect to be compensated for at least 10 of the 13 planned episodes.

Details are fuzzier for the writing staff, who coincidentally had reconvened to start planning the upcoming season the same day that news of the cancellation broke.

The writers probably did not have the same clause the actors had in their contracts, and executive producer Dave Caplan told the magazine that several "did pass on other jobs to take this job, and nobody really knows yet what kind of compensation he is going to get".

Ahrens and veteran production designer John Shaffner anticipate that the art department will get hit hard. He noted that these crew members generally operate as weekly hires, meaning the producers could theoretically fire them at the end of any week.

Loyalty unofficially acts as a long-term contract in these situations, he said, but the network and producers do not have a written obligation to provide compensation.

"The disparity of pay in our entertainment business has reached levels that are almost unimaginable," he added.

ABC has not yet returned The Post's request for comment on whether the cast and crew will receive severance pay.

All of the main cast members and several writers either declined to speak about the cancellation or did not respond to inquiries.

Neither Ahrens nor Shaffner had heard from the network directly, though several outlets reported that Disney-ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood lamented the loss of work in an e-mail sent to ABC staff last Wednesday.

"We're so sorry they were swept up in all of this and we give thanks for their remarkable talents, wish them well and hope to find another way to work together down the road," he wrote.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2018, with the headline 'Roseanne cut leaves crew in the lurch'. Print Edition | Subscribe