Does Roseanne Barr have a future? Does 'Roseanne'?

Ken Tucker
Critic-at-Large, Yahoo Entertainment
Roseanne Barr poses for photos during SiriusXM’s Town Hall with the cast of Roseanne on March 27, 2018, in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for SiriusXM)

The cancellation of Roseanne on Tuesday happened with remarkable speed, after Roseanne Barr’s racist tweet about Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett and Barr’s anti-Semitic tweet about liberal financier George Soros. The rebooted Roseanne was the most popular TV show in the country, and so ABC’s rapid decision to cancel the show was quite a sweeping business decision — a rare display of public conscience on the part of a major company. But here’s the thing: Roseanne may not be a dead show, and Barr may not end up unemployed.

Consider the fact that the sitcom also stars John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf, and Sara Gilbert — a cast that would be capable of carrying its own series. There might be considerable sympathy for the cast, which has distanced itself from Barr’s remarks. There are roughly comparable instances in TV history, such as the way the 1980s sitcom Valerie was retooled when Valerie Harper left in a pay dispute — the show became Valerie’s Family and ran for another season. Is it possible ABC would be interested in something like this? At this point, it seems unlikely, but not impossible. Also, another network, such as Fox, might be intrigued enough to pick up such a project. Fox is, after all, the new and future home of another conservative comedian’s show, Tim’s Allen’s Last Man Standing.

And what about Barr herself? Barr has long been a magnet for controversy — just think of the firestorm she kicked up squawking an out-of-tune version of the National Anthem in 1990, a situation that now seems tame by comparison. One reason it seems tame now is because the culture has changed so radically since Donald Trump was elected president. When voters are willing to elect a man who’s been accused of sexual assault, and who has trafficked in racist conspiracy theories such as the birther movement, do you really think America is going to erase Roseanne Barr from its collective memory quickly? Soon after the cancellation was announced, I tweeted:

I was only half kidding.

Think about it: We now have a country in which celebrity trumps all sorts of scandal, in which the worst kind of language and sentiments get repurposed as bold “anti-PC” cries of free speech. Add to this the rich irony of the next prominent woman to run for president being a Republican rather than a Democrat, and one who has the Trump playbook as a guide, and … well, I didn’t want to think of this, but now I’ve thought it. Maybe if I share it with you, it won’t happen. In the meantime, good for ABC for acting so quickly. This story will go through a number of changes as the days go on — starting tonight: I’m going to be very interested to see what Trump says at the rally he’s holding in Nashville on Tuesday night.

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