The more I think about it, the stranger it is that they chose to blow up the show instead of drop-kicking Roseanne herself off of it and proceeding.
That seems counterintuitive. She’s the central figure, right? The show’s named after her. And she’s the lone Trump supporter among the cast, which gives the show what political salience it has. Offhand I can’t recall a sitcom that’s proceeded after its lead actor has been fired. (I can think of at least one that went on after its lead died.)
But that’s sort of the point. They’d be in uncharted territory creatively and it’d be fascinating to see how they handled it. And needless to say, the name aside, “Roseanne” is famous for its strength as an ensemble. Barr is the show’s comic heart and she’s capable of pathos and anger when the script warrants (she’s underrated as an actor, at least in this role), but John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf are both superb. A season of “Roseanne” in which Dan, Jackie, and the kids had to cope with mom’s sudden death could be really compelling. It wouldn’t be much for laughs but laughs aren’t why you watch “Roseanne.” “The hallmark of the show, the reason it’s memorable for so many, wasn’t that it was fall-down funny but that it was unusually relatable,” I wrote of the original run after the most recent season premiere. “Sympathizing with the Conners is a higher priority than laughing at, or with, them.” You don’t think giving John Goodman 10 episodes to bring Dan Conner’s grief over his wife’s death to life would be amazing television? Then you’ve never seen a John Goodman performance, apparently.
And if you’re hung up on “Roseanne” being politically “relevant” or an accurate reflection of middle America, the lead’s untimely death would work in that regard too. The wrinkle is this: Given what precipitated Barr’s departure from the show and how closely the character is associated with her own real-life persona, 10 episodes of loved ones grieving over her character would feel … odd. Her personality’s too ugly to warrant continued employment by ABC but it’s also lovely enough to sustain a season’s worth of bereavement plots? That’d be tricky to pull off. I’d guess, though, that a new season of the show built on that idea would actually do better ratings-wise, if only for the curiosity factor, than another season of ho-hum “Roseanne has an awkward encounter with the Muslim neighbors” gimmicks featuring Barr would have. The reboot was never going to last more than a few years anyway. Why not send it out on a genuinely interesting note? If nothing else, it’d be a less-than-rude farewell to Goodman, Metcalf, and the rest of the cast, crew, and writers, all of whom just got royally screwed by the cancellation. They didn’t do anything wrong. Why make them suffer for Barr’s sin if the show can be salvaged, which it probably can?
Exit question: Does Barr own any rights to the show that would make it impossible for ABC to proceed without her? I’m curious to find out.