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?