After Disney and ABC gave Roseanne Barr the severest of penalties for her ill-fated tweet by canceling her television show “Roseanne,” sources indicate that the ABC brass are now looking into the idea of continuing the sitcom in some fashion without Barr.
TMZ first reported the following: “The powers that be at ABC are exploring the possibility of re-branding the show and focusing on the character Darlene instead of Roseanne.”
A pitch meeting is set to take place between the producers of “Roseanne” and Disney ABC executives on June 4 to explore a revival of the “Roseanne” reboot with a new name minus the show’s namesake.
The key individuals that have been pursuing the continuation of the sitcom include co-star and executive producer Sara Gilbert, showrunner and executive producer Bruce Helford, and executive producer Tom Werner.
Gilbert was the driving force behind the initial “Roseanne” reboot. Helford was the co-creator and executive producer of “The Drew Carey Show” as well as the executive producer and writer for the original “Roseanne” during season five of the series. Werner co-founded the Carsey-Werner Company and was executive producer of the original “Roseanne,” along with “The Cosby Show,” “A Different World,” “3rd Rock from the Sun,” and “That 70s Show.”
Even if ABC greenlights a revival of a reboot, financial and legal obstacles may end up thwarting its plans. Carsey-Werner owns the lion’s share of the rights to “Roseanne.” However, Barr was the co-creator and executive producer of the show and has contractual financial interests in the series.
ABC is aware of the fact that a competing network faced a similar problem when it removed the lead actor from a top sitcom. Charlie Sheen was fired from “Two and a Half Men” in 2011, and Ashton Kutcher became the star of the show. Sheen also possessed contractual financial interests in the show and filed a $100 million lawsuit to pursue those interests, which concluded with a settlement of $25 million.
Barr has indicated via her Twitter account that she is thinking about fighting back against the cancellation of her reboot. Depending on the provisions in her contract, she may be able to legally challenge the attempt to create a spinoff that has the same characters and similar plotlines.
Disney ABC attorneys could even find themselves working overtime to negotiate a buyout of Roseanne’s rights in order to move forward with a project without her.
Another significant challenge involves the cast. Key members may not wish to be associated with the show or may have conflicting projects. Actors need to know that a project is real so that they can reserve time on their calendars.
It would be crucial for the producer to secure co-stars John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf for the new project. Goodman is a sought after character actor, and Metcalf just snagged an Oscar nomination for “Lady Bird” and is additionally doing well on Broadway. The aforementioned Gilbert has her continuing spot on CBS’s “The Talk” to protect.
The writing staff would have to be contracted as well. Ironically, on the very same day that ABC cancelled “Roseanne,” the writers had gathered at the studio lot to begin work on the upcoming season.
Despite the cancellation, ABC and Carsey-Werner reportedly have a contractual obligation to pay key cast members and writers for the upcoming season on a 10-episode guarantee, which provides an incentive to revive the series reboot.
There are other shows that have continued on following the departure of their lead actors. Current streaming programs “House of Cards” and “Transparent” have both made the transition following the removal of their respective stars Kevin Spacey and Jeffrey Tambor.
An example often cited by industry experts is one from the 1980s. A successful sitcom, “Valerie,” starred Valerie Harper as a career mother, who along with a somewhat invisible airline pilot husband is raising her three sons. After Harper had a dispute with the show’s producers, she was written out of the series. Sandy Duncan joined the cast as the boys’ aunt, who moved in and became their de facto parent. The series was renamed “Valerie’s Family: The Hogans,” which was later shortened to “The Hogan Family.”
However, the unprecedented success of the “Roseanne” reboot differs from the run-of-the-mill television project. Barr had built a sizable reservoir of conventional fandom during her syndication run of 25 years. What gave the reboot such exceptional impetus was the bond that she shares with millions of people, many of whom voted for President Trump, who were chiefly responsible for the phenomenal ratings of the show and who managed to transform a television debut into a cultural event.
A “Roseanne” series without Roseanne may initially draw the curious. But without the show’s comedic and cultural core cast member, it would likely end up as a shadow of its former self.