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Roseanne Pulls Back the Wizard’s Curtain on Network TV and it Ain’t Pretty

Roseanne Pulls Back the Wizard's Curtain on Network TV and it Ain't Pretty

I have always loved Roseanne. I love her because she makes people uncomfortable (even me at times.) I love that she says what she believes, damn the consequences. Now, she can say whatever she wants because she doesn’t work on a network TV anymore, but she still has major guts for the piece she pens in the current issue of NY Magazine that blows open behind the scenes TV behavior that seems more the norm than any of us TV watchers could ever believe.

Roseanne the TV show was unique. She writes in the piece that we will never see a show like that again and I agree with her. Now our working class heroines on TV are way different more like Patricia Heaton in The Middle or Martha Plimpton on Raising Hope which both owe their existence to Roseanne.

Roseanne uses Charlie Sheen’s melt down and flame out to recall her early days on her show which due to the crap that goes on in the TV business, she wound up getting no credit for creating. She does in this article what most people who still want a job in the business don’t, and won’t do — name names.

Most of her bile is reserved for Matt Williams (who seems to like to say he creates show by comedians. He also got credit for creating Home Improvement) and how the two of them were at each others throats for the 13 episodes he was around.

But she also talks about the women who enable these men to do what they do against other women. (We have all met them.) This scenario occurred when there was difference in opinion on what Roseanne should wear onscreen and she found out a female producer was the one giving the orders.

This producer was a woman, a type I became acquainted with at the beginning of my stand-up career in Denver. I cared little for them: blondes in high heels who were so anxious to reach the professional level of the men they worshipped, fawned over, served, built up, and flattered that they would stab other women in the back. They are the ultimate weapon used by men against actual feminists who try to work in media, and they are never friends to other women, you can trust me on that.

I find this point interesting because it goes right to the heart of the issue of how women do or don’t support each other. There are women who will support and hire women. They will look for those opportunities if they can. Then there are the women who compete with other women who believe that there can only be one woman in a position or a company because they are afraid of other women. Like Roseanne, I stay the hell away from these women. You know in five seconds what team a woman is playing on.

Roseanne also gives a great description of the writers room:

The “big house” was what I called the writers’ building. I rarely went there, since it was disgusting. Within minutes, one of the writers would crack a stinky-pussy joke that would make me want to murder them. Male writers have zero interest in being nice to women, including their own assistants, few of whom are ever promoted to the rank of “writer,” even though they do all the work while the guys sit on their asses taking the credit. Those are the women who deserve the utmost respect.)

Please tell me how these environments still exist in 2011, if TV producers today are afraid of being sued for creating a “hostile work environment.” The problem with this is that female writers are not comfortable making legal cases. They usually leave the show because they want to write again, and I would imagine have ideas for their own shows. Every female writer I’ve talked with who usually is still a minority in the writer’s room could file a hostile work environment suit. But none do.

The last point is how women are valued compared with men. Here’s her description of what happened when her show went to number 1.

When the show went to No. 1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate “1” to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy—or maybe they thought I hadn’t heard (along with the world) that male stars with No. 1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and George Clooney [who played Roseanne Conner’s boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat. I sent that to ABC.

I seriously have not laughed this hard in a long time. Roseanne knows she’s a bit crazy, but I will take her crazy over Charlie Sheen’s crazy any day of the week.
And I Should Know (NY Magazine)

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Who cut the cheese?

Roseanne is smart, but she is also obnoxious and crude, and everything that takes down other women by her bad example. I was at a cocktail party where one of Roseanne’s writers (female) talked about what a nightmare Roseanne was to work with. She said one time Rosanne didn’t like one of her scripts and farted on it and threw it across the room at her. Some feminist helping fellow females! What a joke.

And as a blonde, I particularly take exception to her stupid stereotyping. By the way, you know what they call a brunette in a room full of blondes?… Invisible!


The thing is, Roseanne can be both be self-destructive of her own personal relationships AND right about what she wrote in NY Magazine. The way people relate to each other can have complex dynamics and events can take on very different subjective meanings. But to me, Roseanne’s story rings largely true.

And apart from any assessment of factual correctness, that article was very well-written and funny!


There’s no need to trash ME or imply that I’m a dumb blonde because I don’t like Roseanne’s version of “crazy.” I’m a feminist and a journalist. (and a brunette). I don’t go along with Roseanne’s borderline personality antics, but that certainly doesn’t make me wrong. I don’t feel like kissing Roseanne’s butt because I know too much about her—and what I know “ain’t pretty” either. She has hurt and destroyed many people in her personal life. There are other women in show business I admire—from Kathryn Bigelow to Jodie Foster. I prefer their wisdom over Roseanne’s.

Thinkin Person

Great Article. I am so tired of the same old, same old. Rosanne more power to you, you give hope there might actually be something changing in the future, although ABC’s recent spate of cancellations can be better understood now in light of what Rosanne shared.

Patricia, you sound a lot like those blondie women.
I think you aired dirty laundry in the wrong place. Look, we all know how righteous women are often treated by their own mothers and sisters who probably never believed in her, told her to shut up, and oh, we could go on.

Didn’t ya’ll see that woman who confessed a rape in a hotel of reporters, and who put the bag on her head? Another woman.

They probably should have been more supportive of Rosanne for not accepting the shit out there in the world and for saying something. That’s why in 2011 it can feel like the 190’s. Instead, maybe the women in her family should have been right there next to her demanding her fair pay in a Mercedes. And, they would would have met gorgeous George Clunny.

Listen, Rosanne, you look great, you’ve survived a life of men and women telling you who you should be to find yourself and speak up. Thank you!

Linn D.

@Patricia, from reading the entire NY Magazine article I get the sense that Ms. Barr is now old enough to start recognizing her past mistakes along the way. Not that she has necessarily earned her family’s forgiveness, and of course that’s none of our business, but I do think she has some great insights on the business. I found it fascinating. (and validated some of my suspicions)

Melissa, thanks for posting about this article. I may never have heard about it otherwise.


I know one of Roseanne’s sisters—-and Roseanne has never supported women that much, especially her own mother and sisters, whom she trashed and threw under the bus after achieving sitcom fame. Roseanne has created constant chaos—both personally and professionally throughout her entire life—-and she’s destroyed nearly every personal relationship she’s ever had. So I don’t think SHE is a good role model when it comes to evaluating and judging other people.

Alan Roger Currie

Great article!!!!! Roseanne keeps sh** real!!!!!

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