Roseanne on the State of TV

Diane Ellis alerted me to this article by Roseanne (now and again) Barr.  It’s very interesting and since I was on the show for one long, long season, I guess I’m equipped to comment on it.

Where I think she is dead on is in her main gripe that she didn’t share credit for creation of the show with Matt Williams.  It was HER act forged over eight years of gigging dive bars. She is also dead on in that Hollywood remains the most sexist of businesses.  Even with the recent pick up of a lot of women-run shows this season, most writer’s rooms (especially in comedy) remain male-dominated and in some cases, women-hating.  (I could be specific, but I’d like work again.)

And her take on the morphing quality of fame is candid and true.

But her assertion that the writer’s assistants are the ones who really write the scripts is absurd.  I was a writer’s assistant.  The ascension of writers assistants to writers on her show  (and sometimes bar tenders to writers) was nuts and ended up with staffs numbering in the dozens.  (You don’t need more than ten writers to run a show.)  In this aspect, she was cluesless.  She also mentioned giving Judd Apatow and Jos Whedon their first tv jobs.  In the case of Jos, it cured him from ever wanting to work on a staff again.

But her biggest hypocrisy is that in all the years she did reign supreme, firing and hiring show runners on a whim, she NEVER had a woman running the show.  Not even close.  And there were plenty who were qualified.  No, she liked being the queen bee in that little high school hive. And she loved to devalue other peoples’ humanity just as she complained about hers being devalued.  Such as casting obviously gay Sandra Bernhardt and Tim Curry as uncomfortable lovers; housing all the writers in a sound proof booth during tapings.  And her and Tom’s perverse pleasure in offering pony-tailed male studio audience members hundred dollar bills to get their heads shaved, while their girl friends stood by and cried.

Her greatest legacy, however, is that she, along with Carsey-Warner, created the idea of the disposable show-runner, which even includes shows that the show runner created.  And that has ruined more potentially good shows than anything in this business. 

Weighed on the scale of abuses endured and abuses doled out in this biz,  I say Roseanne tips the scale toward those doled out.  Rob? 

  1. Mel Foil

    In the later shows, I did get the impression that the main purpose of the Roseanne Show was to entertain Roseanne, and her somewhat sick sense of humor. It was like eavesdropping on some inside joke that I didn’t fully understand.

  2. Rosie

    Her propensity for dominance has always been apparent to me.  I once saw an interview of her where she admitted that her son-in-law who is Russian is the only man who has successfully stood up to her in years.  Essentially he does not put up with her trying to usurp his authority in his household.  The funny thing is that she told this story with a tinge of admiration and humor. 

  3. EJHill

    I will never understand people who whine about their success. Show-bidness is replete with people who momentary struck it rich but couldn’t sustain it because deep down they were basically rude and unlikable.

    Roseanne hit the wall during her pregame bit for the then-Tom Werner owned San Diego Padres and it’s gone downhill ever since.

    And yeah, if women like Lucille Ball and Mary Tyler Moore had only the chance to be their own boss… oh, wait…

  4. Bulldawg

    To paraphrase Dean Wormer from an actually funny movie:  Fat, not-funny and stupid is no way to go through life.  How and why she got the time of day, much less a television show, is beyond me.

  5. FeliciaB

    Very interesting hearing your viewpoint on Rosanne, Denise.  I never really liked Rosanne.  Her humor had way too much bite to it for my sensitivities.  It felt like there was this undercurrent of rage that was just about to break the surface and spew all over everyone in the first few rows, like a Gallagher concert.  Maybe that’s what made her so popular.  Audiences got a sense of a looming disaster, and the uncertainty added to the drama.  Meh.  Not for me.

  6. Rob Long
    C

    I agree, Denise — from what I’ve heard, Roseanne was a pretty awful person to work for.  And I’m not crazy about hearing how she thinks she was abused.  Again, from everything I heard, she treated the people who worked on that show with rudeness and contempt.

    And as far as “disposable showrunners” are concerned, well, Matt Williams got a very nice good-bye check, and remained a profit participant in the show.  He got paid to stay home.  On the other hand, as we’ve seen with Charlie Sheen, it’s nice to know that we’re all disposable.

    That said, she deserved “created by” credit.  It was certainly her stand up material that gave that show its popularity and appeal.

    But do you really think it’s still a man’s world in television comedy?  This is an amazing year for female showrunners.  When is it time to create a protected class for over-40 guys like me?

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