Roseanne Returns

The Conner family return 20 years later
to tackle the zeitgeist of today’s issues

The opioid crisis, illegal immigration, gender identity: 'Roseanne' returns after 20 years with a ripped-from-the-headlines depiction of a working-class family's fears as the show's all-star creative team gathers to debate the politics of television's most anticipated reboot of the year.

“I’m way too old to be fighting,” said 65-year-old comedian Roseanne Barr. Co-star Sara Gilbert, who played Roseanne's daughter Darlene, reached out in the spring of 2017 about jumping in on TV’s current reboot craze and reviving their iconic sitcom. If Gilbert could reassemble the entire Conner family, including Roseanne’s husband, Dan (John Goodman), and sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), Barr would return.

Her only stipulation: Gilbert, who would serve as an executive producer as well as her onscreen daughter Darlene, would need to take on any battles that arose, be it with the series’ writers or its host network, ABC.

Barr had, after all, endured enough fights during the sitcom's original run, from 1988 to 1997. In those nine seasons, she took pleasure in firing writers (whom she referred to by number, not name) along with the series' creator, Matt Williams, even as the show hovered at the very top of the Nielsen charts with an audience of more than 20 million.

Barr regularly feuded with network execs as well as the series' producers, Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, and on more than one occasion threatened to walk away herself. There was a series of PR gaffes, too, at least a few of which snowballed into full-blown scandals, including the time she shrieked the national anthem at a San Diego Padres game and multiple tabloid episodes from her tumultuous four-year marriage to comedian Tom Arnold.

By all accounts, this time around has been different. While Barr's vocal support of Trump (the self-described "radical" says she voted for him to "shake up the status quo") and occasional alt-right Twitter rants have fanned flames, she insists she has learned to control her anger a lot better.

The disagreements have been largely contained to the spirited writers room, where a politically diverse staff, led by co-showrunners Bruce Helford (who ran one season on the original) and Whitney Cummings (who was still in grade school when Roseanne premiered), has tackled controversial issues from immigration and health care to drugs and gender fluidity. If the show scores an additional season, Barr would like to lean more heavily into such third-rail topics as race and religion.

Unsurprisingly, the series' March 27 return, which will revive Dan (by sidestepping a fatal heart attack referenced in the series finale) and introduce a next generation of Conners, is generating heavy interest, with 30-second ads fetching ABC a robust $175,000.

Roseanne Barr also has a heavy hand in the show's scripts, and will reportedly pocket more than $2 million from the new batch of episodes, on top of the tens of millions she made off the original.

Barr talked about Roseanne voting for Trump and the MAGA campaign, saying, “It's the conversation everybody is having. Families are not speaking to each other. People are still shocked and upset about it. It's the state of our country.”

She talked about the typical ultra-liberal hollywood writers staff for the show saying, “I thought everybody was pretty liberal, so I was keepin' an eye on it, making sure that it was evenhanded. But the day we went to shoot the pilot, I got with the writers, and I'm like, "You guys have to have a Hillary slam! -cause they were all Trump slams.”

Sara Gilbert added, “People think this show is more political than it is. It's more about how a family deals with a disagreement like that. But I get it, it creates website clicks.”

Barr had stated how she admired Dave Chappelle for walking from his show, stating, “I admired him for knowing when the fight isn't worth it. Sometimes you've got to walk if you're feeling like your whole thing is so compromised and you've lost your voice and the authenticity. But I didn't get it put to me like he got it put to him. I just kept fighting. I wasn't about to give in. I just wanted to win.”

Pushing taboos on network television, many instances made the hair of the standards and practices people stand on end. Thinking that the show needed some diversity along with controversial subjects, the reunion season will feature a overly feminine boy, a black grandchild, and a muslim neighbor.

Many staff on the show became the PC police, commenting on scenes like, "you can't say that anymore" and "now this is the word we use". But thinking about the origins of the show, cast members would counter with, "Yeah, but that's not how people in this town at this age in this income bracket talk. It’s not about what we would say, it's about what they would say.”

John Goodman added, “The Conners are good people, though, and they're also trying to adapt to the world. They're learning.” Barr says, “I think the world is ready for controversy.” Other mainstream volitale topics addressed include health care, illegal immigration, and another taboo addressed was the opioid crisis.

Roseanne and the rest of the Conners return on Tuesday, March 27 airing at 8 p.m. Eastern. Enjoy another season of America’s semi-dysfunctional but beloved middle class family!