Freedom Of Screech?

So Roseanne Barr’s on the comeback trail, and she’s making the rounds to promote her first stand-up special in 17 years.  But because her special will debut on FOX Nation, her “making the rounds” includes interviews with the likes of Tucker Carlson, and she’s frankly sounding a tad embittered.  Even to an outlet more left-of-center like the Los Angeles Times, her recounting of what drove her off the air five years ago is one where she comes off as a very, very hyurt woman.  As The Independent’s Peony Harwani wrote:

The 70-year-old actor opened up about ABC firing her from her top-rated sitcom Roseanne in 2018 and compared the treatment she received to that of Dave Chappelle and Louis CK.

The star was sacked from her self-titled sitcom Roseanne by the broadcaster after she posted a racist tweet about former Obama administration official Valerie Jarrett, in which she compared Jarrett to an ape.

She later claimed she didn’t realise Jarrett was Black and that she was on ambien at the time.

In a new interview with the Los Angeles Times, Barr said: “They didn’t do it to anyone else in Hollywood, although they always [mention] Dave Chappelle and Louis CK.

“Well, Louis CK did lose everything, but he committed an actual [offense]. And Dave Chappelle was protected by Netflix.

“I’m the only person who’s lost everything, whose life’s work was stolen, stolen by people who I thought loved me. And there was silence. There was no one in Hollywood really defending me publicly, except for Mo’nique, who is a brave, close, dear friend.”

“It was a witch-burning,” Barr claimed. “They denied me the right to apologise. Oh my God, they just hated me so badly. I had never known that they hated me like that.

Well, not quite.  Way more people hated her 28 years earlier, when her eponymous sitcom was tied with her fellow Carsey-Werner employee Bill Cosby’s (hey, that company sure can pick ’em!) for the highest-rated program on television, as a nod to her bosses who had recently purchased the San Diego Padres, she sung the National Anthem before a July game as a celebration of “Working Women Day”.  Barr’s blue-collar Midwestern housewife character resonated with millions, and the Padres, eager to pleae their new masters, allowed her to perform.

Well, “sing” and “perform” were at best euphemisms, as The Sporting News’ Cory Conner recalled:

Once Roseanne Barr sang the 33 bars of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of 27,000 strong, none of that mattered. The backlash would lead to Barr’s brief disappearance from the stand-up circuit and a fear of public singing that persisted for more than a decade. Few who played or witnessed that doubleheader remember details of the game.

Barr screeched and mispronounced her way through the song in a heavily military town watching a doubleheader with a pretty lousy Padres team taking on the eventual World Champion Cincinnati Reds.  Obstensibly to drown out the boos she was being showered with for her mangling of what most considered to be a reverent moment, she famously stuck her fingers in her ears, abruptly mic-dropped and then grabbed her crotch just before she stumbled back into the dugout.

There was backlash, to be sure.  But a 23.1 rating bought you job protection in 1990.  ROSEANNE the show survived six more seasons, even enduring an inexplicable plot line that killed off her husband’s character when she inexplicably won the Illinois lottery.  Once her character became less relatable, then and only then did she fall out of favor.

Flash forward to 2018.  As revival and reboot fever began to proliferate, a desperate ABC and its newly installed chief Channing Dungey took a chance on bringing the show back as intact as possible.  Turned out that lottery win was just a dream (anyone remember DALLAS?), John Goodman’s Dan Conner was back, heck, even BOTH actresses who played daughter Becky were in the cast.  And is roared back with the network’s largest sitcom audience in years, more than 18 million viewers for its ballyhooed premiere, Dungey renewed the show for a second season within 48 hours of that number coming out, and all seemed to be well and good.

Until Barr made the mistake of tweeting something about someone who was close to a man Dungey, the first female African-American broadcast network president in history, openly avowed to admiring and who was married to someone she profusely expressed was her role model during a conference I attended while we collaborated on a far less successful spring 2018 sitcom launch, IMAGINARY MARY.  If you’ve forgotten that show, you’re not alone–a ridiculous premise about an adult woman with Rachel Dratsch as an unseen companion that was launched the same week as ROSEANNE quickly–and deservedly–faded into obscurity after only a handful of episodes.  Dungey never admitted publicly how wrong she was about that show, but she sure did speak up privately about it.

As, I have been told by several close to her, she absolutely, and vociferously, did, when Barr’s tweet came out.  In spite of Barr’s profuse apologies, and despite the fact that the reboot was still delivering more than 10 million viewers and delivering Dungey her first hit not produced by Shonda Rhimes during her tenure, the demand for her ouster reached a fever pitch, largely because in this case Barr had pissed off one person in particular.  I’ll let you guess who.

And, almost understandably, at the time, Barr was devastated.  Apparently she still is, as the Independent article continued:

Speaking with the Los Angeles Times ahead of her comedy special’s debut, Barr made it clear she was still unhappy about her exit from the series she created. “They denied me the right to apologize,” she remarked. “They hate me because I have talent, because I have an opinion. Even though Roseanne became their No. 1 show, they’d rather not have a No. 1 show.”

Well, had Barr been truly paying attention, she might have realized that karma, to an extent, already happened.  Because of the contractual commitment Dungey hastily made, the show was quickly retrofitted into THE CONNERS, with its female lead’s character killed off–this time permanently. (Anyone watch THE HOGAN FAMILY?).  The premiere held serve, but within two months had lost a third of its audience, which was a two-thirds decline from that March re-debut.

And just before Thanksgiving of 2018, Channing Dungey was replaced as the president of ABC TV.

Now Dungey’s a very very good production executive, and after a brief stint at Netflix working with her champion Rhimes, she re-emerged as the president of Warner Brothers Television, where she now is championing the acclaimed ABBOTT ELEMENTARY, which now shares a Wednesday night–and virtually the same adult 18-49 rating–with season 5 of THE CONNERS.  Which is doing just fine, thank you, without Barr.  All that despite how Barr feels, and apparently overshares about in her FOX Nation special.  As she continued to The Times:

Barr also revealed that she “can’t bear” to watch The Conners in its current form. “When they killed my character off, that was a message to me, knowing that I’m mentally ill or have mental health issues, that they did want me to commit suicide. They killed my character, and my character. And all of that was to say thank you for bringing 28 million viewers, which they never had before and will never see again. Because they can kiss my a**.”

But if Dungey can get a second act, and even a third, why are so many people so determined to deny Barr hers?  Roseanne has all but confessed that the mental issues she was accused of having during her ambien-induced tweet are still prevalent.  Her ap0logies, which appeared sincere at the time, have largely gone on deaf ears–save for a cadre of fans who, more than likely, were among the most angry at someone who seemingly mocked the National Anthem decades earlier.  But they somehow are more open to giving her at least the chance to earn a living than so many others.  If it wasn’t so tragic, it’d be ironic.

Now, to be sure, I’m not gonna watch.  I won’t pay one red cent for FOX Nation, and in all likelihood down the road it’ll show up on FOX Business Channel, or G-d forbid, a more popular channel.  And I’ve got plenty of other reasons to despise Barr besides her political leanings and her accused racist feelings.  I personally knew many people she emotionally abused on the set of her first sitcom, as well as many who worked with her on the ill-fated talk show she at the end of the 1990s which even embarrassed the aggressive salespeople of King World, who because of their own iron-clad contracts forced stations to air a second season after the first was an unmitigated ratings disaster.  Her ex Tom Arnold worked at FOX Sports Network when I was there at roughly the same time, and anyone who knows him knows he’s even more willing to overshare than she is.  I personally saw and heard way too much to cut her slack.

But, on the other hand, she didn’t deliver ME  a 23.1 rating in 1990, or 18 million viewers in 2018, or represent MY hard-scrabble Midwestern values.

So, as far I’m concerned, she absolutely, positively, has a right for her own comeback.  And the fact I’ve devoted this much space to it would suggest I’m encouraging you to not deny her that chance, either.

But we can also choose to stick our fingers in our own ears and drown out the noise.  Especially the noise she’s making with Tucker Carlson.

Just don’t anyone think of grabbing their crotch–and certainly, don’t grab Tucker’s.

Until next time…




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