It was left to “philosopher” Rob Lowe to summarize why the first episodes of the reboot of “Roseanne” were such a massive ratings success.
Lowe tweeted, “The secret to Roseanne’s massive ratings is that it celebrates people with huge political differences who are able to laugh and love together as they passionately disagree.”
I think Lowe is on to something, but there are a number of reasons why this show is being talked about so much.
The New York Times reported that on the morning after the 2016 election, ABC executives gathered and concluded they had to learn about the people and the areas that delivered the election to Donald Trump. They concluded that “Roseanne” was the show that might still reach working-class Americans.
The new show reached the heartland with the top markets being Tulsa, Oklahoma; Cincinnati; and Pittsburgh. The show did well in Chicago, but that is attributed to the fact that the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois, is the hometown of the fictional Conner family. The Philadelphia market ranked No. 12 in ratings for the show, and maybe it reflects a blue-collar base.
The success of the show and the Roseanne character’s support of Trump has triggered liberals across the country. Roxane Gay, author of “Bad Feminist,” wrote in the New York Times that she laughed a lot and thought that the reboot was excellent. She then wrote: “This fictional family, and the show’s very real creator, are further normalizing Trump and his warped political ideologies. There are times when we can consume problematic pop culture, but this is not one of those times. I saw the first two episodes of the ‘Roseanne’ reboot, but that’s all I am going to watch. It’s a small line to draw, but it’s a start.”
Chrissy Teigen tweeted that “Roseanne” was really helping to normalize Trump.
I don’t know whether the show normalized Trump, but it did once again help to normalize some of the people who voted for Trump. The people whom Hillary Clinton called “deplorables” during the 2016 presidential campaign. It showed true diversity of opinion in the battles over Trump between Roseanne’s character and her liberal sister, Jackie, played by Laurie Metcalfe.
Network television has few shows that feature working-class families. I like “The Middle,” a sweet show that addresses the continued economic challenges of a Midwestern family. However, it does not pack the dramatic punch of “Roseanne.” The strong ratings of this show have apparently gotten Fox to consider bringing back Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing.” The show was canceled two months after Allen told Jimmy Kimmel that an actor had to be “careful” in Hollywood if you were a conservative or Republican.
Of course, it will be interesting to see whether the show has staying power. I know that the Trump debates in the first two episodes gave it added juice. I think the Trump base of supporters is as loyal as any I have seen for any politician. The opposition to Trump is the most vitriolic I have ever witnessed. The resistance wants to tear Trump apart.
In Pennsylvania, the unfortunate consequence of this hatred is the savagery of attacks mounted against decent men such as Rep. Ryan Costello and Sen. Pat Toomey. Neither man has really been a Trump supporter; Costello didn’t even attend Trump’s inauguration. Neither man is a rabid public figure in tone or policies. However, Costello has had his office invaded by angry anti-Trump mobs and shouted down at many public events. Because of angry mobs, Toomey has had to move his Philadelphia office to the protection of a federal complex and can do almost no public events in Philadelphia.
I realize many local commentators romanticize these people, touting them as guardians of democracy. They are not guardians of anything, and the excesses of their actions help Trump in many ways.
It’s projected that future episodes of “Roseanne” will deal with illegal immigration and the opioid crisis. These are issues that affect working-class Americans more than most. This show might reach people on these issues more than most news shows.
I hope America is watching.
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