Monday, October 15, 2018

TV: Roseanne didn't kill ROSEANNE, ABC did

THE CONNORS is the latest bomb in Channing Dungey's one woman attempt to tear down ABC.  The new comedy should be able to manage something other than be a wasted half hour because it's not really new -- in fact, the only new thing about the show is how unfunny it actually is.


Many years ago, Roseanne Barr created the basic premise for ROSEANNE with her standup routine which featured not only the character she would later play on TV but the husband, sister and children.  These are Roseanne's characters on THE CONNERS but without Barr around to steer the show, they are lifeless and one dimensional with the sole exception being John Goodman.

For those who've been living in a cave for the last year (or at an undisclosed location with Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi), Roseanne did a Tweet comparing Iranian-born Valerie Jarrett to a cross between Planet of the Apes and the Muslim brotherhood.  Channing Dungey, ABC president, fired Roseanne for the Tweet.

At the time, ROSEANNE was the network's biggest hit, the biggest scripted hit on any network.

Now Channing's groveling before her bosses by offering THE CONNERS.

All the scraping and bowing in the world can't make this show worth watching.

The first thing THE CONNERS makes clear (we've seen the first three episodes -- apparently, Water Cooler critics were only allowed to see episodes one and four) is that Sara Gilbert is not now and never will be an actress.

At best, she's a flavor, like salt, to be used sparingly.

Drew Barrymore walked away with POISON IVY -- the film that was supposed to belong to Gilbert -- because she was a star and because Sara was . . . well a dowdy version of DARLA.

Sara's still dowdy -- plain and tall -- but does anyone want to see a middle aged DARLA?

Sadly for THE CONNERS, no.

At 43, you expect something more than a teenage wiseacre but that's all Gilbert has to offer.

What was good enough for tossing barbs from the sidelines really can't hold the spotlight center stage.

Watching the first three episodes of THE CONNERS, we're reminded of how Sara was supposed to be co-star on THE BIG BANG THEORY after a few notable guest spots but that quickly petered out with a source explaining to ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY why, "They [the writers] couldn’t write for her, so they changed her status to recurring. It's a little mystifying."

Not really all that mystifiying.  A performer who dead pans everything and never fleshes out an actual character is little more than a talking lamp and adds little.  THE BIG BANG THEORY rightly ditched her.

Smart producers, trying to do this spin-off, would have ditched Gilbert and zoomed in on the characters of Jackie and Dan.  Maybe had them go into business together or just have Dan forced to give her a job because she was his dead wife's sister.  But THE CONNERS doesn't have smart producers -- for the record, they have Tom Werner, Bruce Helford, Dave Caplan, Bruce Rasmussen, Tony Hernandez and Sara Gilbert. Poor Sara, always the token, never the norm.

Let's move to the positive: John Goodman.  Give him an Emmy just for the first three episodes we saw.  Goodman's Dan is the only reason to watch.  He brings a sadness and haunting quality to the role while still finding the comedy.  Yet again, Goodman demonstrates he is one of television's finest actors.

Solidarity events are popping up across the US: Los Angeles Milwaukee Fresno Minneapolis Asheville, NC Madison,WI Cleveland Seattle Buffalo, NY Patchogue, NY Montclair, NJ Las Vegas Don't see one near you? Organize your own!

Sadly, the same can't be said for others.

Laurie Metcalf is poorly served by the scripts which don't seem to be what we would call female aware.  Jackie was never just a ditz.  Until now.  There's nothing else for Metcalf to play.  Give her credit for making the lines seem funnier than they are by sprucing them up with off-kilter delivery and physical movement but even Laurie can't save these scripts.

How bad is it?  THE CONNERS makes THE HOGAN FAMILY look like a major work by Anton Chekhov.  Yes, it's truly that bad.

And Sara's heading a troup of actors -- Lecy Boranson and Michael Fishman -- who haven't worked since ROSEANNE left the airwaves in the 90s for a reason -- a very good reason.  Sara, Lecy and Michael are so bad, you wait for the announcement that they've been cast in the road company tour of FROM JUSTIN TO KELLY.

Bad scripts, bad acting, why bother to watch?

To find out how they kill off the character of Roseanne.  That's the only reason most people will watch the first episode.  (And we're willing to bet that, come Tuesday, most viewers won't tune in at all.)  After that, expect each episode to drop and drop and drop and drop in viewers.

And maybe now it's time for Channing to start answering questions?

For months now, we've been reporting what was going on at ABC.  In the last few days, the mainstream press finally caught wind of a small part of it.  Channing has nothing but enemies at ABC now because they realize she's going to get a golden parachute shortly but they're going to be left at ABC trying to fix her f**k ups -- which are enormous.  Tuesday nights are expected to go down in flames once curiosity viewers bail on THE CONNERS.  Which means that will be another night she's destroyed.  As one ABC exec joked to us last week, "Forget speculation about 9-11, the takedown of ABC was the real inside job and Channing's the bomber."

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