Renew and save the tv series "Roseanne". Stop Hollywood dictatorship.
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On Tuesday, 29 May, ABC elected to cancel their hit sitcom, "Roseanne".
The cancellation came about after its leading star and one of the show's producers, Roseanne Barr, verbally attacked former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett on Twitter, abusing her likeness and personality in a tweet that cited the Muslim Brotherhood and the film "The Planet of the Apes". It was no doubt a vile and petty tweet that featured racist undertones and a product of careless and irresponsible action.
Shortly after Ms. Barr wrote another tweet, apologizing to Ms. Jarrett and to "all Americans": Her apology was apparently dismissed by the network that airs the sitcom she produces, "Roseanne", for shortly afterwards the entire television series was canceled.
Immediately news anchors and journalists reported the story with no objectivity, pledging their support of network ABC, Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment Group, The Disney Company that owns ABC and its president, Bob Iger. It seemed that everybody in the media was loath to mention that hundreds of people - not only actors but television directors, writers, costume designers, property masters, production designers, casting directors, set decorators, make-up artists and others - had lost their jobs. It seemed likewise that not one person in the media would mention that Roseanne Barr was just one producer on the sitcom. There was also actor-producer Sara Gilbert, who likewise starred in the show; executive producer Tom Werner, executive producer Bruce Helford, co-executive producer Betsy Borns, co-executive producer Bruce Rasmussen, and many, many others. According to the reportage of most media outlets, the "moral message" that ABC was sending was worth the cost of so many jobs - as well as, apparently, the fall in Disney stock that was the immediate outcome of the show's cancellation.
In the rush of a domino effect, Viacom then ordered its own channels, Paramount Network, CMT, TV Land and others to immediately stop airing episodes of the original series "Roseanne" - which aired from 1988 to 1997: a time in which Roseanne Barr did not comment on Twitter because Twitter didn't exist.
Hulu followed suit and dropped the series from its streaming service.
While Ms. Barr's behavior was reprehensible, the tweet was not written in the name of the television series that she co-produced together with a large number of others. It was written in her personal Twitter account, @therealroseanne, as opposed to the show's own account, @RoseanneABC, which has now been suspended. It was directed at a former political official, not a co-worker or anyone associated with ABC or the programme "Roseanne". Thus although the tweet would evidently sabotage her own reputation and image, it would have not been detrimental to the production of "Roseanne" - which was the third most-watched television series across the five major networks in the 2017-2018 television season.
It goes without saying that ABC has every right to control which tv series are or aren't aired on the network - along with the moral or social message each one of these sends. But as a television series, "Roseanne", both in its original format and in this latest revival, was always known for being among the first shows to tackle prejudice and spearhead progressiveness. It was one of the first sitcoms to present a lesbian kiss back in 1994. It fought against racism and spoke out on behalf of the underprivileged and the working class. In its current form, it follows these traditions.
It seems however that in our current time it is acceptable for hundreds of people to lose their jobs in honor of a "moral message"; a moral message unleashed by a network not responsible for Ms. Barr's tweets or offscreen personality. Apparently we live in a time when our behavior must be guided not by the law or by our own conscious, but by the fear that our employer might dismiss us for reasons unrelated to the work we produce. And even fire our colleagues.
What Ms. Barr did was obviously objectionable. But hers was a single nasty attack and not intentional racist propaganda. She has always advocated for minorities. A recent episode of the new "Roseanne" series dealt with Islamophobia in the US (see video above). She has never incited people to attack groups of any kind. Whatever she has written in her personal Twitter account, she has not ascribed it to her television series; she has never insisted that the sitcom she runs with others should be or is reflective of all of her personal views.
And yet it seems that working well just isn't good enough nowadays. Prejudice has been alive and well and Hollywood since Hollywood began. Actors have made racist or homophobic or sexist comments for over a century; they still do. Ms. Barr's show wasn't canceled because of a racist comment. It was canceled because the comment was made on a public Twitter page. And, in the current era's fiery, compulsive race to see which network head or studio executive can crown themselves Most Righteous, ABC was quick to disassociate itself from "such a person". In an effort to manifest their commitment to diversity and inclusion, ABC expelled hundreds of hard-working people of both sexes, different faiths, different beliefs, different sexual orientations and gender identities. They didn't just make Roseanne Barr a sacrificial lamb to prove a point. They turned around five-hundred people into sacrificial lambs to prove a point.
And yet - what point is this? ABC is not responsible for racist attacks; they didn't even write or condone Ms. Barr's tweet. Whilst racism has always been alive and kicking in America, to our knowledge nobody at the ABC network is actively instigating either physical or verbal attacks on minorities. In cutting off Roseanne Barr and her entire cohort of colleagues, ABC was pandering to the only people they truly care about - more even than they care about business or profits. ABC was cowtowing to the media.
Ironically most people don't care so much for the media. Most people like to come home from work and relax. Relaxing often involves watching tv, and according to Nielsen Ratings, the new "Roseanne" had a total of 25 million viewers for its first episode. It was a great relief in the context of contemporary television: a landscape in which average ratings for shows have slipped considerably over the past twenty years.
But it seems Hollywood no longer possesses an interest in business. Or the stockmarket. For they are too busy determining "messages" they wish to send without labeling them propaganda; they are too busy expelling thousands of workers in the name of a "greater good". Yet no one ever elected a studio executive or the president of a network to champion the "greater good". They all appear to have elected themselves.
Apparently they feel it is their job to instigate purges; cancel shows, public appearances, whole careers on the basis of who "morally" deserves to have one. "Roseanne" isn't the first victim of this attitude. Less than a week ago a UK press tour for the tv series "Arrested Development" was canceled after its stars said "things they shouldn't have" in a New York Times interview.
Not so long ago it was an open secret in Hollywood that people got parts for unfair reasons: nepotism, bribery. The "quid pro quo" mentality ensured that employees were "guaranteed" parts if they just did certain things. These things might have included sexual favors, recruiting another star for the same project, or paying somebody off. Many got jobs on a strictly personal basis: their careers were determined for all kinds of reasons that bore zero relation to their professional talent. It was unfair to them and to others. It was discriminatory.
Today we constantly see employees being discarded on the basis of personal prejudices. If you are disliked, you are let go. Maybe even your whole show and the collection of your co-workers are let go.
It is an attempt at a purge; a form of behavior not superior to Hollywood injustices of the past. The battle over who has the moral "high ground" in Hollywood has turned into an excuse for its most powerful players to dictate.
To all of the networks, cable channels and streaming services who cut off "Roseanne" without the consideration of both the old and new shows' viewership, its fans, and the majority of viewers who enjoy it as it makes them laugh and feel:
You work for viewers. You work for profits that stem from large numbers. You work for a mass of consumers. For their benefit, their entertainment and for the economy.
You don't work to impress your posse.
Stop the dictatorship. Renew or continue to broadcast "Roseanne".
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