Netflix seized on the opportunity to rub a little salt in the wounds of ABC after the broadcast network had to watch its hit comedy “Roseanne” crash and burn.
They sent out a Twitter message promoting its own comedy reboot, “One Day at a Time,” highlighting a few things about the show that make it sound remarkably similar to “Roseanne.” Netflix added the kicker at the end: “Ya know, if you’re suddenly looking for a show like that …”
Could Roseanne return...without Roseanne?
Meanwhile an interesting idea is being floated around ABC: could Roseanne come back without its lead actress? That is, is there a possibility of the show carrying on in a new incarnation without its titular star?
Multiple sources close to the situation say that there have been extremely preliminary discussions among key players — including executive producer Tom Werner, co-star and Executive Producer Sara Gilbert, and showrunner/EP Bruce Helford — about options for keeping the ensemble together in some form without Roseanne Barr. Barr sent the show into a death spiral on Tuesday after posting a racist tweet late Monday night that sparked outrage via social media, so much so that ABC pulled the plug on its most-watched program walking away from up to $60 million in revenue and putting jobs of over 200 people in jeopardy.
A source said that Gilbert and Werner and Helford are preparing to sit down with ABC execs this week to discuss options for the future of the series. One big problem to overcome is the fact that Barr has a significant financial interest in the series, and there is concern that a new iteration that would benefit her financially would be a non-starter for everyone involved.
The hurdles are significant to keeping key cast members on board, plus the challenge of persuading ABC or another network to take a gamble on a show without the star that has always been at its center.
Nonetheless, a hit show is a rare commodity. Werner and Gilbert were the driving forces in making the reboot happen in the first place. Werner is a partner in the Carsey-Werner Co., which produced the original “Roseanne” series that ran from 1988-1997 on ABC. Gilbert grew up as an actress on the show and by all accounts was integral in breathing new life into the Conner clan. As such, Werner, Gilbert, and Helford (also an alum of the original series) are heavily invested in the revival.
The pain of the cancellation was magnified by the fact that the revival had been wildly successful. It premiered in March to 18 million-plus viewers, and maintained a healthy audience throughout its nine-episode run. In an ironic twist of fate, the show’s writing staff was just assembling on the CBS Studio Center lot in Studio City, Calif., on Tuesday morning to begin work on Season 2 when news of ABC’s cancellation decision came down. “Roseanne” settled there because Gilbert is a co-host of the CBS daytime panel show “The Talk,” which also tapes on the lot.
Co-star John Goodman, who would be crucial to any revamped series, is also away with his family and has not been in communication with the “Roseanne” team. But a source close to the actors said he was greatly upset by the cancellation as he had enjoyed revisiting his iconic role as Dan Conner as well as the working atmosphere on the show. “Roseanne” in its original run was known for drama and blow-ups behind the scenes. This time around, by many accounts, production ran much smoother. Sources credited the combination of Werner, Gilbert, and Helford for keeping everyone — especially the notoriously volatile Barr — on an even keel and focused on the work at hand.
Another hurdle to keeping the show going in a new form is the speed with which decisions need to be made. Actors would need some certainty that the show has a future in order to keep their schedules open, particularly for an in-demand actress like Laurie Metcalf. The same is true for the show’s writing staff, which was a strong lineup of sitcom veterans. To make the show economically feasible and use existing sets, producers would need to have a basic timetable for production within a month or so.
Another interesting side note: producers will have to write big checks for key actors writers and producers who have agreements for a 10 episode season of the show. They would clearly rather pay them for work than because of contractual agreements.
Perhaps the biggest question hanging over the effort: will viewers will still tune in for a show about the Conner family without the larger-than-life personality of Barr as its comedic engine. But there are numerous logistical and financial hurdles to clear before writers and producers can even begin to think about tackling that challenge.