Stop Tweeting So Loudly
After the first episode of the Roseanne reboot premiered to a massive 18.4 million viewers, ABC were quick to react and renewed its new darling for another season. The viewer numbers were hard to ignore; FOX (seemingly) cancelled its entire live action comedy block to reboot "Last Man Standing", whos star is similarly conservative. Donald Trump, who famously doesn't watch scripted television, took the time to call and congratulate the show lead.
And yet today, ABC has reversed its decision on the renewal. Earlier this morning, Roseanne chimed in on a Twitter thread critising Obama and his advisor Valerie Jarrett. While the other comments disparage the pairs politics, Roseanne went with a low brow racial slur, deriding Jarretts appearance.
For those who have followed the stars public statements for the last few years, this won't have come as a surprise. Despite the comedy show originally entailing inclusiveness in such areas as minorities and LGBTQ issues, Roseanne has become increasingly right wing, which is no bad thing in itself. But recently, her Twitter feed has become almost singularly posts and retweets of outlandish conspiracy theories and a fair amount of racist overtones. Many of the Episode 1 viewers may have been tuning in simply to see what she would say/get away with on the show. ABC were probably counting on that intrigue.
In 9 episodes, the show has lost almost half that enormous viewership, and over half of the targeted 18-49 demographic that came with it (5.2 to 2.5). While still a fantastic number in today's world of DVR and streaming, the controversy that erupted quickly after the tweet might have tipped the scales of profitability that the network had for the show. Wanda Sykes quit as head writer for the show almost immediately, with other cast members tweeting their anger or disappointment in Roseanne shortly afterwards.
Within the day, her talent agency, ICM, had issued a announcement that it had dropped her as a client, and Viacom has said it is suspending re-runs of the original show in syndication, cutting off a lot of residuals for the original cast. The CEO of ABCs parent company, Disney, made a statement saying that it fully supported the decision.
It will be interesting to see how FOX play Last Man Standing following this incident. It was picked up before the outcry, when it was possibly thought that being outrageous was a good tactic. While a lot of viewers support Roseanne it's obvious there can still be massive backlash to such outspoken beliefs. FOX TV isn't as conservative as FOX News (though a lot of people don't make the distinction) so we wait to see what strategy is used.
Update June 4th: ABC are *possibly* in talks with the rest of the Roseanne cast about a reboot, focusing more on Darlene's character. They recently revealed that because Roseanne herself invented the characters that they would have to pay her fees in that case, and that they didn't really want to do that.