‘Roseanne’ revival showcases political divide in country

Alekya Raghavan | Staff Writer

Of all the revivals and reboots and spinoffs pouring out of Hollywood in recent months, one is re-making a huge splash: Roseanne.

A half-hour comedy, Roseanne centers around the Conners, a blue-collar family living in the fictional Landford, Illinois. The titular matriarch, played by Emmy-award winner Roseanne Barr, juggles family and work alongside her husband and four children. 

The show, which first began in 1988, ran for nine seasons on the American Broadcast Company (ABC) before ending in 1997. Now, 20 years after the original premiere, the show has returned.      

And with its debut on March 27 came 18.4 million viewers. Including time-shifted viewing over the next week, the premiere of season 10 was watched by 27.26 million people, making it the highest rated hour-long telecast on ABC in 12 years. Because of the revival’s initial success, ABC ordered a second season after just two episodes. 

Roseanne is only one among a slew of television revivals hitting the small screen in recent years. But where it differs from notoriously liberal revivals like Will and Grace or Fuller House, is that it features a protagonist who, like her namesake portrayer, is an unabashed Trump supporter. 

Freshman Evan Ponstingle said that the show is just another layer in the diversity of modern television. 

“One thing that I find ironic is that the big thing now is diversity,” Ponstingle said. “But a lot of the people who want diversity [in television] want diversity as long as it’s not Republican or Trump supporting.” 

Junior Micah Warwick said that, in addition to the diversity of television, the characters and storylines are the prerogative of the show runners to make, given the number of actors and writers who have used their shows to propagate liberal politics. 

“I think if that’s what the producers of the show want, it’s their right,” Warwick said. “There’s all these other shows who have it leaning the other way, democratically. And the right is gaining traction. I don’t see why they shouldn’t have it that way.” 

In recent television history, truly conservative characters have been few and far between. Characters like Karen Walker (Will and Grace) and Jack Donaghy (30 Rock) are often only used to satirize the rich, white conservative. These then end up being a means to achieve a show’s ultimately liberal political message. The West Wing’s Ainsley Hayes and Brothers & Sisters’ Kitty McCallister were often singled out for their right-wing politics. 

“Politics has long been incorporated in television,” Government teacher Katie Post said. “Whether it has been the focus of popular TV shows such as The West Wing, or talked about in opening monologues on late night television, politics is constantly a focus and fascination for the American public. As a show that did not primarily focus on the issue of politics, (Roseanne) has now found itself in the middle of American culture that is finding it hard to ignore that same exact topic. As a result, some are not happy with the change from the original show’s storylines and characters to now addressing the sometimes polarizing conversation that is politics.”

ABC faced backlash when it cancelled Last Man Standing, despite strong viewership, as fans felt the decision was motivated by lead actor Tim Allen’s conservative views. On the other hand, Roseanne has been denounced by the other side because of Barr’s personal views and political opinions. Ponstingle said that people should be able to make a distinction between an actor’s personal beliefs and their work. 

“I think that you have to kind of distinguish between the artist and the show,” Ponstingle said. “You look at Kevin Spacey, with all the allegations and whatnot, but he’s still a good actor. I don’t think that [an actor’s] political views or people’s thoughts about the person should influence what they watch.” 

Roseanne has been praised for its honest portrayal of a working-class family, both in its original run and in the revival. It has also been praised for the fact that it contains both conservative and liberal ideals, like the main character’s support of her gender-nonconforming grandson.

“Even if you don’t agree with the politics it’s something new and fresh,” Ponstingle said. “You have so many shows that are from very liberal (perspectives). It’s nice to see a mainstream comedy leaning right.”