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But WHY was Roseanne such a big hit again?


Reunited & ABC feels so good. Roseanne/Dan in Roseanne. ABC photo

@unclebarkycom on Twitter
Analyzing the whys and wherefores of Roseanne’s mega-ratings splash on ABC Tuesday night apparently is the solemn duty of every TV critic and political pundit in your land/my land.

The title character’s full-throated support of Donald Trump in the reboot’s first episode makes this even more of an imperative.

How could this have happened?

Does the show’s even better performance in some “red states” further underscore the Great Divide in which our country is gripped?

Has the real Roseanne Barr, likewise a Trump supporter, morphed into a Joan of Arc among all the President’s men and women?

Did the “mainstream media” get fooled again in terms of discounting the depth of Trump’s support?

Or has Roseanne re-arrived in times when broadly executed comedy from a very familiar and “relatable” working class TV family should simply be taken for what it is -- a laughing matter. In other words, enough head-hurting already.

First a few particulars on what Roseanne accomplished Tuesday night.

The show’s return, after a 21-year absence, didn’t win big against ratings slouches on rival networks. On the contrary, its back-to-back episodes steamrollered two very formidable opponents -- new hours of CBS’ NCIS and NBC’s The Voice. The 18.2 million total viewers for Roseanne easily topped the audience for any other network TV series premiere this season. And among advertiser-prized 18-to-49-year-olds, Roseanne had the most viewers for any comedy since CBS’s 2014 season opener of The Big Bang Theory.

Perhaps even more impressively, Roseanne’s second episode improved on the first in both total viewers and with 18-to-49-year-olds. That very rarely happens. And it came close to doubling the audience of NBC’s heavily promoted Will & Grace return, which drew a pretty impressive 10.2 million total viewers last fall.

As noted in my review, both Roseanne and Will & Grace devoted the showiest parts of their first episodes to clashes over the 2016 presidential election. On Will & Grace, Megan Mullally’s flighty Karen Walker flew the Trump flag while the show’s three other principals remained aghast. In Roseanne’s opener, Roseanne Conner trumpeted her support of Trump while her sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), made her entrance in a pink “Nasty Woman” t-shirt and matching “pussy hat,” even though she eventually admitted to wasting her vote on Dr. Jill Stein.

The political fireworks, on both Roseanne and Will & Grace, then greatly subsided. Tuesday’s second episode of Roseanne and a third one made available for review are devoid of any Trump references. Instead, the Conners deal with “gender fluid” grandson Mark’s wardrobe choices and a hobbled Roseanne’s addiction to pain pills.

A notable difference is that Mullally is vocally anti-Trump in real-life while Barr both voted for and still supports him. Her basic reasoning apparently escapes the President, who personally phoned Barr to congratulate her on Roseanne’s ratings triumph. But as Barr recently told Jimmy Kimmel, her support of Trump in large part is tied to keeping Vice President Mike Pence from stepping in should Trump fail or be impeached.

“Are you f**cking kidding me? You want Pence?” she asked Kimmel. “You want Pence for the freaking president? Well, then zip that f**cking lip.”

In that respect, what’s not to like about her? Barr apparently has matured to the point of no longer making it a living hell to work for her, which she has admitted was the case on the original Roseanne. But she largely remains unfiltered, daring to verbally spit in the face of a Hollywood whose opposition to Trump seems close to unanimity.

ABC couldn’t care less. The network’s nine-episode order for Roseanne won’t stand for long. Barr has said she’s eager to do more episodes, and ABC is now even more eager to pay her whatever it takes to accomplish that.

But still, we wonder. Why did Roseanne re-explode with such force after the original spent seven consecutive seasons among prime-time’s top 10 shows before fading badly down the stretch?

Maybe America at large, and not just Trumpeteers, sees more of itself in the Conners than it would like to admit. It’s very doubtful that Trump has ever sat on a couch as well-worn or cheap-looking as the famed focal point of Roseanne and Dan’s living room. But most of us have, no matter where we stand at the moment.

Roseanne’s biggest asset may be that it seems to be genuine. As it was when the series first premiered on ABC back in the fall of 1988.

Back then, the networks still did “round robin” interviews during their yearly “press tours” in Southern California. TV critics were divided into smaller groups -- rather than amassed in a big ball room -- while the stars of new shows rotated among as many as five hotel conference rooms.

Some of us cheated with Roseanne, following Barr and the cast from room to room in hopes of getting extra quotes via questions that hadn’t been asked by the previous group. After all, she was refreshingly unlike anybody we’d seen before. Heavy-set, plain-looking, outspoken and starring in her own comedy series in times when only NBC’s The Golden Girls and CBS’ short-lived Annie McGuire (fronted by Mary Tyler Moore) had women leading the laughs on the then Big Three broadcast networks.

Roseanne was an instant hit then and a re-instant hit now. So maybe it’s mainly just her, irrespective of how she voted. I’m just going to leave it at that for now. Many of the show’s viewers might well feel the same way. Perhaps -- just perhaps -- they’d like to do nothing more than just enjoy the show.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net