On Tuesday afternoon, ABC held a conference call to announce its fall 2018 schedule and boast about all the exciting new shows in the works. But guess what reporters really wanted to know about?
If you assumed “Roseanne,” you are correct. The rebooted sitcom garnered a huge amount of viewers and controversy in its first seven weeks, with Roseanne Barr’s conspiracy theory tweets and one episode’s polarizing dig at ABC comedies “Blackish” and “Fresh Off the Boat.”
“Roseanne,” which stars Barr as a Trump supporter (as she is in real life), earned 18 million overnight viewers after its premiere in March and became a political flash point as President Trump endorsed — and took credit for — the show’s success. Though on the call, ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey pointed out that the pilot featured the most politics, as Roseanne faced off with her liberal sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf). In subsequent episodes, the sitcom delved much more into the “everyday trials and tribulations” of the Conner family.
So, for those who are wondering, the upcoming season will move “away from politics and [be] more focused on family,” Dungey said.
And about that “Blackish” and “Fresh Off the Boat” joke: In one episode, Roseanne and Dan (John Goodman) fell asleep in front of the TV during ABC’s prime-time lineup. “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families,” Dan said afterward, in reference to those two shows. Roseanne sarcastically responded: “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”
That line caught backlash from many on social media, including TV writer Kelvin Yu, who wrote, in part: “Consider what exactly the audience is laughing at. What exactly is the punchline here? I’ll tell you what it is: it’s an endorsement of dismissiveness and disregard. It’s a familiarity and comfort with the culture of objectifying and demeaning people of color.”
Dungey defended the “Roseanne” writers and said they were expressing the title character’s views.
“I was a little bit surprised to the reaction to that line,” Dungey said. “We felt like the writers were simply tipping the hat to those shows, and it certainly wasn’t meant to offend.”
And, as one reporter asked, does Dungey think that Barr’s political opinions are coloring how people perceive the show’s content?
“I do think there’s a little bit of that, yes,” Dungey said.
Also, it seems that ABC does not regret letting go of Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing” (another comedy starring a 1990s sitcom star as a conservative clashing with a liberal family.) The show’s fate repeatedly “came down to the wire” as the network tried to negotiate with the studio, Twentieth Century Fox Television, Dungey said. Incidentally, “Last Man Standing” was just picked up by Fox for a new season.
Dungey reiterated that ABC tries to be “as diverse and inclusive as possible” across metrics including race, gender, religion and economics. “Roseanne,” she said, is “focusing on a family who is in different economic circumstances than some of our other comedies on the air.”
Meanwhile, ABC has six new shows this fall, including “The Alec Baldwin Show,” featuring interviews with the actor and podcast host on Sundays at 10 p.m. The series, which aired a preview episode after the Oscars in March, is the first network prime-time talk show since “The Jay Leno Show” debuted on NBC in 2009. No word on whether this will affect Baldwin’s gig as Trump on “Saturday Night Live,” where he appeared two weeks ago.
The comedy “The Kids Are Alright,” set in a working-class neighborhood in 1970s Southern California, is about an Irish-Catholic family with eight sons. Drama “The Rookie” stars Nathan Fillion as a small-town guy who has a life-altering incident that inspires him to join the Los Angeles Police Department.
“Single Parents” gets the post-“Modern Family” spot on Wednesdays, as the comedy follows a group of single parents who are raising their young children and lean on each other for support. “A Million Little Things” is a drama about a circle of friends from Boston who bond for a surprising reason.
And on Sunday nights at 8, spinoff “Dancing With the Stars: Juniors” is exactly what it sounds like, starring celebrity kids.
FALL 2018 PRIME-TIME LINEUP ON ABC
New shows are in bold
8 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars”
10 p.m. “The Good Doctor”
8 p.m. “Roseanne”
8:30 p.m. “The Kids Are Alright”
9 p.m. “Blackish”
9:30 p.m. “Splitting Up Together”
10 p.m. “The Rookie”
8 p.m. “The Goldbergs”
8:30 p.m. “American Housewife” *
9 p.m. “Modern Family”
9:30 p.m. “Single Parents”
10 p.m. “A Million Little Things”
8 p.m. “Grey’s Anatomy”
9 p.m. “Station 19”
10 p.m. “How to Get Away With Murder”
8 p.m. “Fresh Off the Boat” *
8:30 p.m.: “Speechless” *
9 p.m. “Child Support” *
10 p.m. “20/20”
7 p.m. “America’s Funniest Home Videos”
8 p.m. “Dancing With the Stars: Juniors”
9 p.m. “Shark Tank”
10 p.m. “The Alec Baldwin Show”
* New time slot