Roseanne sitcom to focus on the everyday

Roseanne Barr (above) in the sitcom, Roseanne.
Roseanne Barr (above) in the sitcom, Roseanne. PHOTO: ABC

NEW YORK • It is as simple as ABC for the journalists.

On Tuesday, when TV network ABC held a conference call to announce its autumn 2018 schedule and pitch new shows in the works, they really just wanted to know one thing.

Would Roseanne still be as politically charged in the second season?

The rebooted sitcom had garnered a huge amount of viewers and controversy in its first seven weeks, with star Roseanne Barr's conspiracy theory tweets - linked to the protection supposedly enjoyed by a child-sex slavery network used by the country's most powerful people - and one episode's polarising dig at ABC's minority-led comedies Blackish and Fresh Off The Boat.

Roseanne, which features Barr as a Donald Trump supporter (as she is in real life), earned 18 million overnight viewers after its premiere in March and became a political flashpoint as United States President Trump endorsed - and took credit for - the show's success.

In response to the Roseanne queries, ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey pointed out that only the pilot had actually featured the most politics, as Roseanne faced off with her liberal sister Jackie (played by Laurie Metcalf).

In subsequent episodes, the sitcom delved much more on the "everyday trials and tribulations" of the Conner family.

So, for those who are wondering, the second season will move "away from politics and be more focused on family", Ms Dungey added.

What about that Blackish and Fresh Off The Boat joke that fell flat, at least for some?

In that episode aired last month, the show's characters Roseanne and Dan (John Goodman) had fallen asleep in front of the TV during ABC's prime-time line-up.

"We missed all the shows about black and Asian families," Dan said afterwards about Blackish and Fresh Off The Boat.

Roseanne sarcastically responded: "They're just like us. There, now you're all caught up."

That line caught backlash from many on social media, including TV writer Kelvin Yu, who wrote in part: "What exactly is the punchline here? I'll tell you what it is: It's an endorsement of dismissiveness and disregard. It's a familiarity and comfort with the culture of objectifying and demeaning people of colour."

Ms Dungey defended the Roseanne writers and said they were just expressing the title character's views. "I was a little bit surprised to the reaction to that line. We felt like the writers were simply tipping the hat to those shows and it certainly wasn't meant to offend."

She reiterated that the network tries to be "as diverse and inclusive as possible" across all metrics, from race and gender to religion and economics. "Roseanne," she said, is "focusing on a family who is in different economic circumstances than some of our other comedies on the air."

Meanwhile, ABC has six new shows this autumn, including The Alec Baldwin Show, featuring interviews with the actor and podcast host on Sundays at 10pm.

The series, which aired a preview episode after the Oscars in March, is the first network prime-time talk show since The Jay Leno Show debuted on NBC in 2009.

There is no word on whether this will affect Baldwin's gig as Mr Trump on Saturday Night Live, where he appeared two weeks ago.

But if you prefer not to watch shows that make a song and dance about heated topics of the day, ABC has a spin-off on Sundays called Dancing With The Stars: Juniors. It is exactly what it sounds like, starring celebrity kids.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 17, 2018, with the headline 'Roseanne sitcom to focus on the everyday'. Print Edition | Subscribe