ABC Entertainment Group President Channing Dungey says there are no regrets over going forward with the Roseanne revival, even though the network was subsequently forced to fire star Roseanne Barr over a racist tweet. Both Barr and ABC became swept up in controversy this summer after Barr’s tweet comparing former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, who is black, to a Planet of the Apes character. Barr later chalked up the tweet to the effects of Ambien.
Amid backlash, ABC moved swiftly to fire Barr, even though the revival of Roseanne had established itself as a ratings winner and been renewed for a second season. Barr and ABC later worked out a deal whereby Barr relinquished all her rights to the show and characters, allowing the network to go forward with the spinoff series The Conners, with Barr no longer involved. It remains to be seen how The Conners will deal with Roseanne’s departure, but Barr herself claims the show will have her former character die of an opioid overdose, after setting up her addiction problems as a major storyline last season.
Even though controversy dogged the revival season of Roseanne from almost the beginning, and ultimately led to an ugly divorce between the network and Barr, ABC Entertainment Group President Channing Dungey says she has “no regrets” about putting the series on-air. Dungey said during the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, California (via Deadline) that, “We had a great conversations about the kinds of stories they wanted to tell, those broader stories that deal with a part of our country, particularly those that are more challenged economically.”
Like the original series Roseanne, which ran from 1988 to 1997 on ABC, the revival season indeed dug into issues facing the working-class of America. One of the issues tackled was the rise of Trumpism, as Roseanne and her sister Jackie briefly clashed over Roseanne’s embrace of Donald Trump. But ultimately the political angle was largely dropped in favor of stories focused more on the struggles of the characters, with occasional asides into larger cultural issues, as when Roseanne found herself conflicted over her Muslim neighbors.
Ultimately, it wasn’t the subject-matter of the series that led to controversy so much as Barr’s comments outside the show. With Barr now gone – and claiming she will be in Israel studying instead of watching the show – The Conners carries on the legacy established by Roseanne, as it continues to delve into the day-to-day struggles facing Dan, Darlene, Becky and the rest of the family. With the show set to debut, the big question is how Roseanne’s death will be dealt with and how much humor will be wrung out of the controversy that enveloped the show thanks to its now-departed creator.