“Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show,” ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey wrote in a statement.
This was a huge move by ABC. Barr is the star and the namesake of the year’s No. 1 TV show. “Roseanne” is a moneymaker for Disney and ABC, and promised to pull tremendous ad dollars in the fall, when it was scheduled to air in the Tuesday 8 p.m. lead-off slot. Now, ABC will have to figure out in the coming weeks what to do with that key time period. (The network had no word yet on what it planned to do.)
For now, all “Roseanne” repeats have been pulled from ABC — including tonight’s episode — and the show has been scrubbed off of all ABC and Disney websites. Also, all Emmy For Your Consideration plans for “Roseanne” have been halted. The show has effectively been erased from ABC’s memory — just days after the Alphabet network touted the show’s season-ending performance as the No. 1 series on linear television.
ABC had plenty of reason to hope that this latest controversy will be a distant memory in four months — particularly given the modern news cycle, and a world where every day the White House is behind another new controversy. It’s still May, after all, and there will be many more scandals before the fall TV season launches.
But the firestorm surrounding Barr wasn’t going to go away. When Dungey and Disney/ABC TV Group president Ben Sherwood woke up this morning to Barr’s Tweets, they took swift action — with the full support of Disney CEO Bob Iger, who knows Barr well from battling with her in the late 1980s and early 1990s at ABC.
“There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing,” Iger later wrote on, yes, Twitter.
Even executive producer Tom Werner, whose production company Carsey-Werner was behind the show from the beginning, issued a statement that he supported “ABC’s decision to cancel the show in the wake of Roseanne Barr’s most recent reprehensible tweets. Our goal was to promote constructive discussion about the issues that divide us. It represented the work of hundreds of talented people. I hope the good work done is not totally eclipsed by these abhorrent and offensive comments, and that Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs.”
Just hours after the Twitter explosion, ABC sent a statement that it wouldn’t tolerate such language and hate from its key star. And it’s a sign that the network realized that it would face protests and perhaps advertising boycotts in the coming months if the show kept going. ABC had planned to showcase the show at an Emmy press event this weekend, for example, and it wouldn’t have been able to avoid questions about its star and the fate of the show.
The cancellation came after swift condemnation of Barr throughout Hollywood, including from co-star (and fellow “Roseanne” executive producer) Sara Gilbert: “Roseanne’s recent comments about Valerie Jarrett, and so much more, are abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show. I am disappointed in her actions to say the least,” she wrote. “This is incredibly sad and difficult for all of us, as we’ve created a show that we believe in, are proud of, and that audiences love— one that is separate and apart from the opinions and words of one cast member.”
This is incredibly sad and difficult for all of us, as we’ve created a show that we believe in, are proud of, and that audiences love— one that is separate and apart from the opinions and words of one cast member.
— sara gilbert (@THEsaragilbert) May 29, 2018
The move also came after consulting producer Wanda Sykes announced that she would no longer work on “Roseanne.” (Another writer, Whitney Cummings, had previously departed the show.)
I will not be returning to @RoseanneOnABC.
— Wanda Sykes (@iamwandasykes) May 29, 2018
Later, after the decision, executive producer Bruce Helford said in a statement, “On behalf of all the writers and producers, we worked incredibly hard to create an amazing show. I was personally horrified and saddened by the comments and in no way do they reflect the values of the people who worked so hard to make this the iconic show that it is.”
There is precedence for networks digging their heads in the sand as one of their stars peddles racist nonsense: NBC stuck by Donald Trump as host of “Celebrity Apprentice” even as he launched a nasty campaign against President Barack Obama, accusing him of not being American. NBC came out of its relationship with Trump virtually unscathed — even if the country didn’t.
But more recently, there has also been precedence for networks to make swift decisions when it comes to talent who have been accused of wrongdoing. That includes lead anchors accused of sexual misconduct, such as “Today” anchor Matt Lauer and “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey. PBS quickly canceled “Charlie Rose,” and CBS removed him from “CBS This Morning,” after allegations of harassment.
As others have noted, ABC knew what it was getting into when it brought “Roseanne” back. Iger headed up ABC during the original “Roseanne” run and clashed regularly back then with Barr — because, so it seems, being in business with Barr means having to regularly clash with her.
Perhaps making things a touch easier for ABC, “Roseanne” had settled in to lower numbers after its tremendous premiere, and there was no guarantee it would ever return to those heights. (Other returning series, such as “Will & Grace,” have experienced similar big opens followed by erosion.) Nonetheless, “Roseanne” was big enough that no one expected ABC to completely pull the plug so swiftly.
In the end, Barr wasn’t let off the hook. The decision to cancel “Roseanne’ came after Barr had made plenty of unhinged and offensive statements in the past, but her racist attack today on former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett was a blatant reminder of who this person is. On Twitter, Barr wrote that “Muslim Brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a baby,” and it was Jarrett. A reminder: that this isn’t the first time that Barr has compared an African-American woman to an ape, having done the same thing in 2013 to former national security advisor Susan Rice.
Barr also regularly spreads debunked conspiracy theories and rumors on her Twitter feed. Now, the Alphabet network sent a message to the “Roseanne” star and all talent that actions have consequences.
The reaction outside of ABC was also swift. Barr’s agency, ICM Partners, has dropped her as a client. Viacom’s cable networks Paramount Network, TV Land, and CMT will be pulling repeats of “Roseanne” from their schedules starting May 30. And per Hulu, “we support ABC’s decision and are removing the show from Hulu.”
Also, the digital network Laff has dropped all reruns as well: “While we believe viewers have always distinguished the personal behavior of the actress Roseanne Barr from the television character Roseanne Conner, we are disgusted by Barr’s comments this week. Therefore, we are removing the original Roseanne series from the Laff schedule for the time being, effective immediately.”