In the three days since ABC abruptly canceled Roseanne after its star’s racist tweet, there’s been hopeful talk of how the network might salvage its top-rated show.
Could there be a spin-off? Could some of its stars find a new comedy vehicle? Any resolution is a ways off, but there have been rumblings that Sara Gilbert, who plays the Conner family’s daughter, Darlene, is behind an effort to keep the series alive.
Deadline reported Thursday that Gilbert (who’s credited with reuniting the cast the first time) and executive producer Tom Werner planned to meet with some of the show’s writers next week to “kick around ideas” for continuing the show in some form. TMZ went a step further on Friday, saying Gilbert “has been calling other cast members to gauge their interest.”
ABC declined comment, but an executive who was not authorized to speak publicly said the network has merely agreed to consider any option for continuing the series as long as Barr is no longer connected to it. No proposals have been made, the executive said.
There’s clearly a financial incentive to continue: Although independent producer Carsey-Werner, not ABC, owns Roseanne, the network is obligated to help pay top cast members after renewing it for a 13-episode second season. According to Screen Actors Guild rules, they’re due to be paid for a minimum of seven episodes, even if none are produced.
The Hollywood Reporter says Gilbert and co-stars John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf negotiated pay raises, to $350,000 for each episode of the planned second season, which would translate to a $7 million-plus obligation under SAG rules. So revamping the show around some of them would provide a way to capitalize on that payout and keep writers and crew members employed.
A huge complicating factor is that Barr was not only Roseanne‘s star, but also its co-creator and executive producer, so contractually she’d have to approve the plan and is entitled to a share of profits if the series continues in any form. That, in turn, could create more PR blowback for ABC, which would be financially rewarding her despite firing her, unless the studio can find a way to remove her.
While there’s no guarantee that a series built around Barr would succeed without her, ABC has few attractive options in rebuilding a fall schedule it had built around the show. In its nine episodes last spring, Roseanne averaged 23.3 million viewers, ranking as the top series on TV. Executives are now scrambling to find an acceptable replacement schedule ahead of the looming upfront ad-sales market, when the bulk of commercials for the upcoming season are sold.
In any event, it’s highly unlikely that a Roseanne replacement series could come together by September. More likely: A midseason tryout, if it happens at all.
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