'Roseanne' Returns Without Roseanne But Just As Unfunny

Times have been tough for those Trump supporters who are fine with his rampant bigotry but are discovering he's going to screw them like any number of non-wife-like women he totally swears he's never met.

Oh well! Before their homes are foreclosed by Trump's banking buddies, Trump supporters can forget their entirely preventable troubles with the president's favorite TV show "Roseanne," which is returning to ABC minus Roseanne, her likeness, or creative and financial participation. (Now maybe NBC will return those phone calls regarding my proposed "The Non-Cosby Show.")

ABC canceled its lucrative reboot of " Roseanne" in late May, after star Roseanne Barr published a tweet that compared Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to President Obama, to an ape. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey called the tweet "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values." It looked like the network was willing to take a financial hit and part with a successful property in the name of, of all things, principle.

Not so fast.

On Thursday, the network announced that it is picking up the tentatively titled show " The Conners." It's a Roseanne-less Roseanne. It went straight to series — meaning it doesn't have to produce a pilot to prove it can work, as other shows would. Instead, it will simply slide into the fall schedule just like it was going to before, except without its star.

Is the series really "tentatively titled"? It clearly has a title. It's not that creative ("Roseanne-less Roseanne" is much better), but I assume they'll stick with it. But how do you do "Roseanne" without Roseanne? Wasn't she in a lot of the scenes? I didn't watch the revival, but everyone from the theoretically funny to bedwettingmorons enjoyed it, so I guess the non-Roseanne stuff was pretty solid. They could just do more of that. Let's take a quick look at some recent non-coastal elite hilarity.

Uhh... maybe the Becky who wasn't on "Scrubs" is just a little rusty. I have fond memories of Sara Gilbert as Darlene. That's probably still gold.

Wow. OK. Whatever makes Trump supporters happy, you know?

The question now is how "The Conners" will explain the absence of its former lead. I presume they'll go with "Dead Mom" (probably from an Ambien overdose). It's a classic plot device that goes back to "Valerie," which after the departure of star Valerie Harper became "Valerie's Family: The Hogans" and then "The Hogan Family." There were, like, three channels and whatever FOX was doing back then, so people took the time to keep track. When John Ritter died suddenly in 2003, his show "8 Simple Rules" went with "Dead Dad" and then treated us to David Spade being David Spade for a while before the series was mercifully cancelled. Recently, the mother on the Kevin James sitcom "Kevin Can Wait" also died between seasons, and the series itself died the following year. So, yeah, there's not a good track record, but ABC remains hopeful.

One way to look at this development is the way ABC is spinning it, which is that the characters still have plenty of stories to tell. "The Conners' stories demonstrate that families can always find common ground through conversation, laughter and love," says the network.

Wait, didn't most of the potential conflict come from Roseanne the Trump supporter? Who's going to fill that role? Dan Conner (John Goodman) doesn't seem that political. He never even complained that much about being dead. Roseanne Barr's advanced-stage racism dementia is unfortunate because her character Roseanne Conner was always the driving force behind the bulk of the stories. How do you replace that? And please don't phone David Spade.

But if Roseanne Conner has a piano dropped on her, Roseanne Barr should still come out all right.

If Barr received "go-away money" to make ["The Conners"] possible, then she's arguably profiting from the "Conners" "spin-off," as ABC is calling the star-less vehicle. And she still makes money from the old seasons, which are more valuable the longer all of this is in the spotlight. What's more, if she retains the rights to the character for any future uses (including bringing Roseanne Conner somewhere else), then this is all enormously helpful to her prospects, compared to, say, putting the entire show in a great big bag, setting it on fire and throwing it into a ravine.

The bottom line is that Barr is likely to be worse off, certainly, than she would have been if the show had continued with her, but better off than if this new spin-off weren't happening at all.

Somehow I think Trump supporters won't mind indirectly helping to keep Roseanne well-stocked in Ambien.

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. Once, he wrote a novel called “Mahogany Slade,” which you should read or at least buy. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."


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