Alright, fine, let’s talk about Roseanne, since everyone is talking about Roseanne.
Tuesday’s premiere of the reboot of Roseanne brought in some 18 million viewers, making it not just the most watched comedy premiere of the season — but the most watched comedy in 3 and a half years. The big news story making the rounds today is that Trump called Roseanne Barr to congratulate her on her “huge” ratings and for being a supporter.
People had some thoughts about that:
And this brings us to the crux of the matter: a pop culture debate is currently raging over the show because Roseanne the character and Roseanne the person are both Trump supporters. There is a great deal of hand-wringing among some liberals that the show is going to glorify Trump and his supporters — and, perhaps even worse, because of its stunning success, it will open the door to more shows in that vein. (And, in fact, according to TMZ, Fox is already eyeing a reboot of Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing which was cancelled recently by ABC because, according to Allen himself, he is a conservative. Other reports suggest that his salary was entirely too high, and ABC was tired of negotiating with him. But I digress.)
Others are upset with Roseanne and her personal politics (she recently accused Parkland survivor David Hogg of giving a Nazi salute and routinely posts anti-Islamic screeds) and feel she shouldn’t be rewarded or brought back into the national conversation.
Meanwhile, Trump supporters are crowing about the success of the show, suggesting that they have been ignored by pop culture for too long, and the show’s high ratings are the proof.
I was one of those 18 million people who watched the premiere — live, no less — and could hardly be called a Trump supporter. I concede that the high ratings were in part because of our heated political climate, but they were also because a much beloved sitcom that was a cultural touchstone during its original run was returning with the original cast, and people like myself wanted to bask a little in that nostalgia. Also, too, leaving politics aside, there are just not that many shows currently on the air that reflect the lives of economically struggling Americans. The Middle, which is a very solid family sitcom, ends this season; Shameless is a drug and sex-fueled dramedy on a cable network; Bob’s Burgers is an animated series; and all the other examples I can think of are set in the past. These are stories that an audience has been waiting to hear.
And here is where Roseanne — at least based on the two episodes that aired Tuesday — has the potential to do great good or become very problematic.
As noted, the premiere episode establishes that Roseanne and Dan are Trump supporters because “he talked about jobs” and promised to “shake things up.” Her sister Jackie stands in for the Hillary-supporting, pink-pussy-hat-wearing, Nasty Women, and the two gently and briefly spar over politics. While it’s clear the show is trying to go for a balance and to reflect a number of American families’ political divides, it’s a noble idea only in thought, not much in practice, as Jackie is portrayed as shrill and hysterical, and Roseanne, rational and calm.
The second episode stayed away from Trump, instead focusing on Roseanne and Dan’s worry about their grandson who likes to wear skirts and dresses. Roseanne and Dan aren’t homophobic, you see, they are just worried that their grandson will be bullied and tormented, and by the end of the episode they accept him for who he is. And this is good! This is a healthy message to share with Red State America and to challenge #MAGAites, especially those who want bathroom bans and “religious freedom” laws.
Alternatively, it could be argued that it doesn’t challenge Trumpites at all, instead reflecting back to them a sanitized version of themselves. They’re not homophobic! They’re not racist! (Roseanne has a half-black granddaughter in the show, who had maybe one line in two episodes.) They’re just interested in jobs and security and the American dream and what’s wrong with that? This could potentially become a problem if the show refuses to address Trump’s explicit racism and misogyny, the GOP’s ongoing social crusade against homosexuals and the trans community and the Trumpites’ support of all of it. If the show avoids addressing the fact that many Trump supporters voted for him not out of economic anxiety, but out of racial anxiety, it will miss an opportunity to open up a discussion about the uglier side of #MAGA.
Honestly, I have no idea which direction this show will go. The series is supposedly staffed by many liberal writers, but Roseanne may be reluctant to take on dangerous subjects, especially if she herself is unwilling to accept that Trump’s support was based not just in economics but also simmering bigotry.
The bottom line is as we saw on Tuesday, this series has an enormous stage and the chance to open up a national dialogue about the issues that are dividing us right now. I don’t expect or even want the series to always give an acceptable “liberal” answer to these questions — it is necessary to hear conservative perspectives if any of us are going to burst open our bubbles. But it would be a missed opportunity if the show continues to over-idealize working-class America without occasionally making them face their own intolerance and long-festering racism, misogyny and homophobia.
In other TV news
Eric Trump and Jared Kushner became a Jeopardy answer, and the guy who answered it correctly dragged Eric when he tweeted about it:
And he wasn’t the only one:
Laura Ingraham bullied a Parkland survivor because she is the very definition of a “deplorable,” and he fired back by calling for a boycott of her advertisers:
Game of Thrones spoilers: where there is smoke there is fire.
Fargo will not be returning in 2019 because Noah Hawley is an overcommitter.
Ryan Seacrest’s accuser claims that Megyn Kelly booked her — and then cancelled her — and thinks it’s because NBC and E! are related. She has now filed a police report against him.
Charlie Walk has left Republic Records after being forced off The Four.
Here’s Geraldo Rivera apologizing for Bill O’Reilly, saying he harassed and assaulted women because he’s never had a good date. Oh my god, stop.
- Alexa & Katie has been renewed by Netflix.
- Sneaky Pete has been renewed for a third season by Amazon.
- Roseanne is thisclose to being renewed for a second season with even more episodes.
- CBS is giving Vivica Fox her own syndicated talk show, Face the Truth, on which she will talk non-stop about 50 Cent.
- Netfix has ordered Cursed, a take on the King Arthur legend from Frank Miller.
- Netflix also has The Wicked Deep, a YA series.
- Tobias Menzies is your new Prince Philip.
- Campbell Scott, Alanna Ubach, Kelly Hu, Marc Blucas, Ami Sheth, and Jen Ponton are joining the cast of AMC’s Dietland.
- Sonya Walger and Alex Sawyer are joining the cast of Get Shorty on Epix.
- Elena Satine is joining CBS All Access’ Strange Angel.
- Marissa Jaret Winokur is going to appear on The Bold and the Beautiful.
- Amber Stevens has been set as the female lead in the Damon Wayans Jr. CBS comedy pilot.
- Kimia Behpoornia has been cast in Abby’s, NBC’s comedy pilot.
- Amy Rutberg has joined the pilot for Get Christie Love.
- Jee Young Han is joining The Mission, an ABC drama pilot.
Mark Your Calendars
- John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City will premiere on Netflix on May 1.
- Animal Kingdom returns on TNT on May 29.
- Bosch will return on Amazon on April 13.
- Rise Up: The Movement that Changed America will air on History on April 4.
- Best Baker in America returns on Food Network on May 7.
- World’s Most Epic and Engineering Catastrophes both return on Science Channel on April 5.
- Archer: Danger Island will return on FXX on April 25.
- Fishing for Giants will debut on The Smithsonian Channel on April 25.
Chalmers Marquis, Champion of public television
Supernatural: It’s the Scooby-Doo crossover! 7 p.m., The CW
Siren: MERMAID SHOW. Series premiere. 7 p.m., Freeform
Discovery Special: Invisible Killers: Influenza: In the wake of one of the deadliest flu seasons in recent memory, is this special designed to scare you some more. 7 p.m., Discovery & Science
Scandal: Olivia Pope moves to a new time. 9 p.m., ABC
Late Night: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert: Emily Blunt, John Heilemann, Alex Wagner, Kacey Musgraves Conan: Sean Penn, Claudia O’Doherty The Daily Show: Rosie Perez The Opposition with Jordan Klepper: Alan Dershowitz Watch What Happens Live: Chrissy Metz, Sara Gilbert
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