Exeter, Devon UK • May 22, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Screen Roseanne Barr(ed) – on conservative sitcom families

Roseanne Barr(ed) – on conservative sitcom families

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Sitcom audiences often think that their favourite shows must exist in a binary, perhaps a result of America’s almost humorously centrist perspectives. Hence, Roseanne was thought of as the “natural” binary to the left-leaning sitcoms such as Modern Family, or the “wholesome conservative” opposite of edgily racist comedians or cartoons. The show tries to play off to the family oriented, make-*country*-Great-again audiences – yet in 2018, had already seemed to be falling off the mark. Indeed, shows like Fresh off the Boat capture the nostalgia of a forgotten past, still managing to be wholesome without the addition of racial puns or cranky grandpas wishing for the 1940s; other sitcoms, like Arrested Development, easily showcase an ambiguously conservative family whilst managing to cater to a 2018 audience without resorting to portraying MAGA-esque behaviour as necessarily good.

Roseanne’s cancellation was almost cinematic, and appropriate for the vibe it was trying to go for with its revival. Just as how the show’s weak political angling tried to support a President who is so often in hot water for his twittering, Roseanne herself sunk the show with a horrific tweet. Referring to a Black former White House advisor in terms that seem to be taken from the Jim Crow era, Roseanne was immediately ditched from ABC, with executives crawling out of the woodwork to denounce her statement and swear they had nothing to do with it. Hollywood and several commentators came out in support of ABC’s decision, saying there was no place for bigotry in Hollywood or the small screen (amusing, considering the backlash to the first interracial kiss on TV, and segregation at the Oscars only eighty years ago).

Unlike other sitcoms… the family’s conservatism is mentioned, but not used as a funnel for basic political viewpoints

Others, however, mourn the cancellation of what some refer to as the last bastion of conservative shows highlighting wholesome conservative families. But how much of a nostalgic show is the Roseanne revival? Unlike other sitcoms where the titular family are probably somewhat right wing, (see: Malcolm in the Middle, Arrested Development, Still Open All Hours, I Love Lucy, Anne With an E), the family’s conservatism is mentioned, but not used as a funnel for basic political viewpoints. Indeed, Roseanne merely uses the election-season line of “more jobs and a shake up versus a big fat liar who has email issues” in an argument with her friend on one of the first episodes of the revival. Perhaps, to underline the incongruity of Roseanne with other conservative TV families – imagine a show with a leftist family, but instead of that being mentioned or a plot point, the family is instead used as a medium to spout out just straight up quotes from the Manifesto.

Sure, American audiences may want a conservative sitcom. But Roseanne is not that sitcom. Roseanne’s revival seems more of a medium for political one-ups, surrounded by rehashed jokes from the old episodes, rather than a show featuring a family who may or may not be conservative. Indeed, one of the older episodes concerned Roseanne and her son, Dan, complaining to the child’s school about having to kiss a Black girl in a school play, followed by her not letting a man (the girl’s father) into the Lunchbox because he was black. The writer claimed it was Roseanne realising she was “a bit of a bigot”, but nothing was done about it, and the show continued into some other family misadventure the next episode. A wholesome conservative show may be all well and good – but Roseanne’s revival, being a weak political mouthpiece combined with lazy comedy writing, makes one think that an abrupt cancellation was better than the show desperately trying to woo the edgy alt-right crowd by progressively getting worse with the thinly veiled political diatribes.

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