ABC Cancels Hit Sitcom 'Roseanne' After Racist Tweets From Show's Star

May 29, 2018
Originally published on May 29, 2018 4:23 pm
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ABC canceled its hit TV show "Roseanne" today. The move came after Roseanne Barr tweeted this to describe longtime adviser to President Obama Valerie Jarrett. Quote, "Muslim Brotherhood and 'Planet Of The Apes' had a baby equals V.J.," end quote. Jarrett later responded on MSNBC, saying, I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment. "Roseanne" has been one of the highest-rated shows throughout its season, but that did not stop ABC from taking action against its star.

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Now, to sort through what happened, we turn now to NPR's TV critic Eric Deggans. And, Eric, ABC moved really quickly on this, right?

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: They sure did. And they seemed to be sending a message that there was no room for racism amongst the stars or their highest-rated shows. This was a surprise because "Roseanne," the revival, was one of the highest-rated shows of the TV season just behind "The Big Bang Theory" in total viewers. And ABC seemed to be positioning it to be the centerpiece of their fall schedule when they spoke to advertisers at their upfront presentations in New York earlier this month. So it is very surprising that they took this move.

CORNISH: Shortly after this tweet went out, Roseanne Barr also sent another tweet that said, I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans. I'm truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics - referring to Valerie Jarrett and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me. My joke was in bad taste. What have we heard from the other cast members?

DEGGANS: Sure. Well, Sara Gilbert, who plays Darlene on the show and also serves as an executive producer, sent out a tweet that said, quote, "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." And also comic Wanda Sykes, who served as a writer and consulting producer on the show, also revealed on Twitter that she was not going to be joining the show in the fall. So there were several people connected with the show who expressed their opinions here.

CORNISH: It wasn't so long ago that ABC was actually defending jokes on the show, right? So what's changed in the atmosphere that would have a giant corporation like this making such a move so quickly - 'cause this was a successful property.

DEGGANS: Right, well, this is the difference between a line that was scripted and was planned and seemed somewhat ambiguous and something that the star did apart from the show that was not ambiguous at all. And I think at some point, ABC thought it was sort of defending the show and that maybe people were overly harsh in how they were judging some of the lines. But when you see what Roseanne Barr tweeted most recently, there's really no other way to take it.

We're in a point now where there's so much social media and there's so much political conflict in social media that we've reached a point where I think networks can't sit back anymore and let these controversies play out. If you remember the show "Duck Dynasty," someone who was a star of that show said something that people thought was homophobic in an interview. And they suspended him, but they didn't cancel the show. And they did bring him back, and they seemed to get past it. Now we seem to be at a point where you can't do things like that. And certainly ABC chose not to handle it this way in this situation.

CORNISH: That's NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Eric, thank you.

DEGGANS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.