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The 'Roseanne' Writing Staff Weighs in on the 'Stress' of Working on the Show

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 31, 2018 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | May 31, 2018 |


I have mixed feelings about the writing staff of Roseanne. I mean, with Goodman and Metcalf, I could maybe see them thinking, initially, “Well, Roseanne is a shitshow, but maybe we can do some good here and earn some money along the way.” After all, as the NYTimes notes:

The show’s rebirth was the brainchild of Sara Gilbert, the actress who plays one of Roseanne Conner’s daughters. Ms. Gilbert and other producers for the show felt that a comedy centered on a working-class family would be perfectly timed to a moment when the country was so divided.

On the one hand, sure? On the other hand, they should have SAID something when everything went pear-shaped, instead of pulling the “I don’t want to talk about politics” card that notoriously liberal John Goodman pulled on Seth Meyers. Besides, Gilbert’s original “brainchild” feels a little like that time when Chris Pratt said that there aren’t enough movies about blue-collar white guys. There are plenty of great shows about working-class families, and they are all better than Roseanne, but the idea of a show that might endeavor to unite the country politically could be appealing.

They just went about it the wrong fucking way. And with the wrong fucking person. But, you know: If you’re a television writer, you may be more inclined to take any job you can get, and since you have an opportunity to actually shape the message, you could potentially be a source for good by, for instance, putting words into Roseanne Conner’s mouth that highlights that character’s hypocrisy.

But about that? That’s not the way it turned out.

For all the success, there was also a vague sense of foreboding. The writers’ social media accounts were flooded with negative comments. Articles posted online criticized jokes and plots. Their friends in the liberal enclave of Los Angeles would occasionally tsk-tsk that they worked on the show. And, of course, there was Roseanne Barr, the show’s star and co-creator, and her history of volatile public comments.

“It was hard for us once we started airing and we started to see some of the stuff that came out,” said Bruce Rasmussen, an executive producer of the series. “It was just brutal: ‘How dare they give her a show? How dare they write for her?’

“It was a certain amount of pressure,” he continued. “You’re the No. 1 show, and people are coming after you on the web and you’re getting attacked by 50 percent of the press.”

In fact, according to the Times, 50 percent of the writers’ room had left the show by the end of the first season. It was too toxic for them, and Barr — like Trump — only managed to make things worse.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” Mr. Rasmussen said of her Twitter account. “She would tweet stuff, then apologize and get off Twitter, and then it would get better. And then it would blow up again. I followed her to just see what was coming. Some of the other writers couldn’t do it, just because they couldn’t handle the stress of it.”

I guess I’m with Danny Zuker on this — a writer on the original Roseanne and now a writer on Modern Family:

A paycheck is a paycheck and all, but what did the writers expect? Have they not been watching the news for the last 2 years? People like Roseanne Barr do not change; they don’t keep their thoughts to themselves, and they ruin everything they touch.

In the meantime, one promising possibility has surfaced as a possibility to replace Roseanne on ABC: Sue Heck — the character played by Eden Sher on The Middlemay be getting her own spin-off.

Source: NYTimes

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Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here, follow him on Twitter, or listen to his weekly TV podcast, Podjiba.