Roseanne and The Cost of Doing Business
The old joke goes, “it is called show business, not show friends”. It’s a warning and a way of life in the sometimes romanticized world of movies, tv and theatre – watch out, the bottom line is indeed the bottom line.
But no need to tell us, we are savvy consumers nowadays. We know no one is friends, not even on Friends, that studios and networks love their stars and their shows ’til the numbers drop. We don’t necessarily read Variety, but we get it. Look no further than film fans discussing opening weekends, or your friends into Survivor
sensing a “winner’s edit” with the jaded eye of a Hollywood insider. To mix metaphors, we have been given a look behind the curtain, and we think we know how the sausage is made.
Money. Right? It’s about the money. No amount of love for Wonderfalls could convince Fox to not cancel the beloved series- just one of many examples.
While the new streaming paradigms and crowd funding have changed the likelihood of old, niche or even cancelled tv offerings finding a new lease of life, there still has to be a financial bottom line. Some decision maker considering a fourth home or a third mistress won’t say, “yes, greenlight another season of Freaks and Geeks, six thousand Nielsen families will be delighted!”; instead we’re more likely to hear “Damn the torpedos and feh to good taste, profits will be my comfort when I meet St Peter and explain it was I that gave the public another helping of Celebrity Colonoscopy.”
So to that end, what happens with Roseanne?
Not the person Roseanne, that’s a discussion for you to awkwardly bring up with your in-laws during a July 4th barbeque (it’ll take the heat off of that Colin Kapernick thing you’ve been avoiding).
The revival of the popular 90s show Roseanne is – like Farmboy Westley – only mostly dead. We all by now know what happened. The star got her show back, which premiered to major ratings, then she said some stuff, while the show evened out to lower but decent ratings, then she said more stuff which was considered not great, then more which was really not great, and then ABC said bye bye. Yes, this is how a third grader would explain the events to his class in “TV Show and Tell”. A lot of this story sounds like it came from a hostile child.
But is it all said and done with this cancelled sitcom? After all, there is money on the line here. Apparently sources say the network won’t be able to invoke what’s called a force majeure clause, which is the safety net that allows producers to cancel contracts due to unforeseen, catastrophic events. ABC is going to have to pay off cast and some crew, most likely, if it is indeed cancelled.
Or… uncancel it.The Hollywood Reporter is one of the many sources saying all is not lost for fans of the Conner Clan – there are behind the scenes talks of a revisioning of the sitcom, crucially minus the star, which would keep the show going.
That might sound okay, if you’re a fan of the comedy. But, here’s the glitch in this particular situation – Roseanne begat Roseanne. Barr is a creator of the character, in a way all of ’em, and an Executive Producer. I don’t have her studio contract in front of me – but she most likely can’t be cut out of the profits from any sort of sanitized version of the show.
So, let’s say, with the neutral, in-it-for-the-laffs public clamoring for more working class family shenanigans, and the vocal Roseanne fan base not wanting the PC police to mandate their viewing choices, will both of those groups provide a possible audience if, and it’s a big complicated if, the Roseanne show came back? Dead for over twenty years but alive and generating publicity for twenty weeks, would this show be worth “saving” monetarily? And if the woman being sent to the woodshed will profit from any permutation of her original creation, can ABC do that, and make the public happy? Well, “happy” – let’s say “satisfied” in their simultaneous bloodlust and need for Barr’s take on current times?
What do you think? Did it affect you as a viewer that Donald Trump was still an Executive Producer of The Apprentice even after he downgraded to the role of US President? Do you choose your media with real-life views or politics in mind? Can you sink into your couch and detach from the personal lives of those people entering your home via Netflix? Are we wasting a lot of time over what is really just half an hour of dick jokes?
What say you, Beasts?
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A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.