The move was a no-brainer. ABC was in need of a new hit show, and “Roseanne” is the biggest out-of-the-box hit to come along in years.
The network’s announcement on Friday actually called it an “11th season” renewal — a nod to the show’s roots in the 1990s.
“We’re thrilled that America has welcomed the Conner family back into their homes. The show is as fresh and relevant today as it was when it left the air 21 years ago. We can’t wait to see what the ‘Roseanne’ team has in store for next year,” Channing Dungey, the president of ABC Entertainment, said in a statement.
The “Roseanne” reboot has been the talk of Hollywood ever since initial ratings from Nielsen showed that 18 million people tuned in to it on Tuesday night.
The ratings home run is a testament to the enduring power of big-tent broadcast television.
With one day of DVR and video-on-demand viewing counted, the new total for the premiere is 21.9 million viewers.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump wrapped himself in the “Roseanne” ratings news. On Wednesday he called Barr — a longtime friend — to celebrate. Then on Thursday, he touted the show’s success during a speech in Ohio.
“Look at Roseanne — look at her ratings,” he said. “They were unbelievable. Over 18 million people! And it was about us!”
“This is 100% in Trump’s sweet spot,” New York Times TV critic James Poniewozik tweeted Thursday. He said Trump obsesses over ratings, “bashes Hollywood but craves its validation,” and “divides the world into things that are ‘pro TRUMP’ and ‘against TRUMP.'”
Noting Trump’s disinterest in scripted programming, Poniewozik said “I doubt he will ever watch Roseanne, but in his mind, a ‘pro TRUMP’ thing won.”
The sitcom’s red-state appeal is a factor for sure — but it’s not the only one. In fact, there’s been some backlash to the idea that the show’s launch was Trump-fueled.
“The ‘Roseanne’ narrative has gotten out of control,” former Amazon Studios executive Matthew Ball tweeted.
He pointed out that the series “was the biggest show on TV” in 1990, so “it is no surprise that with this base plus press attention, audiences turned up. That was the point.”
An ABC source made a similar point on Thursday, saying, “The Trump of it all is exaggerated.”
The source described ABC’s view of the ratings victory, citing many other reasons why the reboot clicked: “Wickedly funny. Beloved characters. Emotional.”
The show had a built-in fan base from its previous incarnation on ABC. It benefited from strong writing and producing and a “huge ABC promotional push,” the source added.
The first two episodes of Season 1 aired on Tuesday. There’s not as much Trump talk in the seven remaining episodes, producers and executives told The New York Times on Thursday. But there’s lots of social commentary: Unemployment, health care, poverty, opioid abuse and single motherhood are all addressed.
Dungey said “Roseanne” was part of a post-election strategy by ABC.
Up until Election Day in 2016, “we had spent a lot of time looking for diverse voices in terms of people of color and people from different religions and even people with a different perspective on gender,” Dungey told The Times. “But we had not been thinking nearly enough about economic diversity and some of the other cultural divisions within our own country. That’s been something we’ve been really looking at with eyes open since that time.”
Like the original “Roseanne” in the 1990s, the show portrays a working class family. Barr is both a Trump supporter in real life and on the show.
“People gather round and they see themselves in this family,” Disney-ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood told The Times. “It speaks to a large number of people in the country who don’t see themselves on television very often.”
Disney CEO Bob Iger tweeted about “Roseanne” on Thursday, including the show in a list of other Disney brands: “Black Panther,” “Modern Family,” “Coco,” “Black-ish,” “Zootopia,” “Moana,” “Fresh Off The Boat,” “Avengers,” “Star Wars,” “A Wrinkle In Time.”
Iger said they’re “all reflections of the wide variety of people, backgrounds and opinions of the world we live in.”
Now there’s lots of chatter in entertainment industry circles about “Roseanne” copycats.
CNN commentator and former RNC communications director Doug Heye said no one should have been surprised by the show’s performance.
“Obviously, the ‘Roseanne’ numbers are absolutely huge, but I think it’s only a surprise to, and I kind of hate the term, ‘coastal elites,’ who don’t know, don’t get and don’t want to get, conservatives,” he said in an email. “How many times have we seen a super strong opening for a Christian movie that the Hollywood promotional industrial complex never talked about?”
Expectations will be high and remain so for the rest of the season. The ABC source said there’s no downside to having Trump talking about the series.
Simply put, it’s “more attention,” the source said.