Hit sitcom 'Roseanne' axed over racist tweet row
New York (AFP) –
US television network ABC announced on Tuesday it was canceling Roseanne Barr's hit working class comedy "Roseanne" over a joke she made on Twitter that was widely decried as racist.
The sitcom star had earlier apologized to African-American former Barack Obama aide Valerie Jarrett, for what she called a "bad joke."
"Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj," tweeted Barr, star of the ABC TV comedy, which was revived in March after a gap of 21 years.
After a barrage of criticism on social media, the 65-year-old, whose character was controversially recast as a supporter of President Donald Trump, voiced regret and deleted the tweet.
"I apologize to Valerie Jarrett and to all Americans," Barr tweeted. "I am truly sorry for making a bad joke about her politics and her looks. I should have known better. Forgive me - my joke was in bad taste."
"I apologize. I am now leaving Twitter," she said.
The mea culpa was not enough for ABC, which issued a statement from its entertainment president Channing Dungey saying it was axing the hit show over Barr's "abhorrent, repugnant" tweet, which was "inconsistent with our values."
- 'The right thing' -
"There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing," said Bob Iger, the head of ABC's parent company Disney, in a tweet posted moments later.
The show had been renewed for an 11th season after scoring huge ratings and generally positive reviews for its season-10 opener -- including from the president who appreciated the new pro-Trump perspective.
A hotly-anticipated double-episode debut that aired in March attracted 18.2 million viewers in preliminary Nielsen ratings, making it the season's top premiere.
"The show is as fresh and relevant today as it was when it left the air 21 years ago. We can't wait to see what the 'Roseanne' team has in store for next year," Dungey said at the time.
The opening episodes saw Barr return as the eponymous blue-collar matriarch of the Conner clan alongside husband Dan, played by John Goodman, with whom she shares medication to save on cost.
The Washington Post called it an "engaging return to life" for the sitcom, whose first run went from 1988-1997, and which now is "sporting a fresh layer of relevance."
"They're older and unhappier and, to a character, well acquainted with the demise of the American Dream," the newspaper said.
"If you're a fan of the original Roseanne... this is as good as it's going to get," concluded The Hollywood Reporter.
- 'True reflection' -
Not only did the show offer a rare depiction of working-class life on US television, but it also spotlighted Trump supporters, who have been largely ignored by Hollywood.
Barr, who has been an outspoken supporter of the Republican president on and off screen, revealed that he had called personally to congratulate her.
Barr ran for president herself with the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party in 2012, and voted for Obama before becoming a vocal Trump supporter, saying she wanted him to "shake up" the status quo.
"I've always tried to have it be a true reflection of the society we live in," Barr said of the sitcom in January.
"I feel like half the people voted for Trump and half didn't, so it's just realistic."
She told television journalists in Pasadena, southern California, in January that hating people for the way they voted in 2016 was "not American."
"And, in fact, it was working-class people who elected Trump, so I felt like that was very real and something that needed to be discussed," she added.
African-American comedian Wanda Sykes, a consulting producer on "Roseanne," announced before that cancellation that she would not be returning to the show in any case.
Campaigns had also been launched on social media to pressure advertisers to drop their support for the sitcom.
© 2018 AFP