For the first time since 1989, a native Utahn is starring in the No. 1 show on television.
Weirdly enough, it’s the same native Utahn starring in the same show. “Roseanne” was the most-watched show on TV then; it’s the most-watched show on TV now. And Roseanne Barr — who was born and raised in Salt Lake City — was and is the star of the hit sitcom.
Clearly, the world has changed a lot since 1989, when “Roseanne” tied with — gulp — “The Cosby Show” atop the ratings. And its ratings now are a fraction of what they were then. But 29 years ago, there were no streaming services; cable television offered almost no original programs; and Fox wasn’t even really up and running — it offered programming just two nights a week.
But one thing that hasn’t changed is that Barr remains a controversial, polarizing figure, never more so than she is now, with her outspoken support of Donald Trump and promotion of various wacko conspiracy theories — including multiple attacks on Trump’s opponents as pedophiles.
And that makes ABC executives, well, at least a little bit nervous. ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey acknowledged that the real Roseanne’s politics color the way people view the fictional Roseanne.
“I do think that there’s a little bit of that, yes,” Dungey said.
In the months leading up to the “Roseanne” revival, Barr said she was temporarily stepping back from Twitter. A lot of her inflammatory tweets were deleted, although screenshots remain. And she told USA Today, “If I get renewed, you might see me back out there.”
“Roseanne” has, of course, been renewed.
Dungey correctly pointed out that, in eight of the nine episodes this season (including the season finale that airs on Tuesday at 7 p.m. on Channel 4), there isn’t any pro-Trump rhetoric. That did, however, figure prominently in the first episode, when Roseanne and her sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), were at odds because Roseanne backed Trump and Jackie backed Hillary Clinton.
“Yes, we certainly did touch on some of that in the first episode, in a very funny way,” Dungey said. “I think it allowed us, between the differing political views of Roseanne and Jackie, to address some issues that we think have been conversations at other family dining tables across the country.”
Probably with just as much screaming and yelling.
“The focus is not really on politics and much more on sort of family and the sort of everyday trials and tribulations that this family faces,” Dungey said. “I think that they’re going to continue on the path that they were on towards the latter part of this season, which is away from politics and more focused on family.”
It’s apparent that Dungey didn’t run that past Barr before she blurted it out to TV critics in a conference call. Barr contradicted her boss on — you guessed it! — Twitter.
“Don’t worry, #Roseanne fans — next season will be even braver/funnier/timely this season, despite what anyone mistakenly says,” Barr tweeted.
Ah, Roseanne vs. ABC executives. It’s just like old times.
So much for the mellower version of Roseanne Barr.