Roseanne is raising the Barr

Published 2:28 pm Friday, April 6, 2018

by Blair Bless

Roseanne Barr has risen from the dead.

After a lengthy absence from television, Roseanne and the rest of her fictional Conner family are once again gracing our living rooms. And now, as then, she’s not limiting herself to once-weekly sitcom appearances to make her presence known. Her recent use of Twitter assures us of that.

Roseanne was — and remains — a brilliant media strategist. In addition to the role she played on her show, she fostered a public persona that sometimes, quite deliberately, left her looking as though she were the sole survivor of a very bad train wreck. And the American people loved her for it.

For close to a decade, Roseanne was fine fodder for the tabloids as well. They endlessly detailed her personal foibles, multiple marriages, family crises, and fractious relationships with co-workers and network executives. Viewers and readers hung on every word, both in print and on-screen.

If the share of viewers who tuned in to her revamped show’s premiere last week is any indicator, the romance continues.

Roof-raising ratings demonstrate that, 30 years later, Roseanne is still relevant. And it’s not just because the character of Roseanne Conner is a lapsed Clintonite who has wholeheartedly embraced Donald Trump. To many, her evolution makes sense.

Working-class Americans like the Conners have always struggled to get by. Whereas former President Bill Clinton once stood up for working men and women and fought to make America a more equitable place for them to live (at least publicly,) so, too, does President Trump today (at least publicly.) Comparisons, however, end there.

When Bill Clinton left office, he left behind an economy that was healthier than it had been in decades. Rather than increase the budget deficits he inherited at the beginning of his first term, Clinton left office with the government in the black and surpluses recorded for the better part of his last term.

Moral failings aside, President Clinton did, for the most part, take care of the little guy. Moral failings aside, President Trump’s ability to do so will be left for future historians to decide.

Supporters of the president point to the current state of the economy: significant reductions in taxes, a jump in the stock market, and the prospect of a resurgent pro-business environment — in part, through massive deregulation and punishing tariffs. In exchange, we’ve been saddled with a deficit of approximately $1.5 trillion dollars. As for middle-class tax breaks, most of them will expire in 2025.

Roseanne and Dan Conner better start socking away any refund checks they’re hoping to get as a result of recent Republican tax legislation. They’re going to need all the cash they can muster when it comes time for them to enjoy retirement. If they can ever afford to have a retirement.

Not too much of a concern for Roseanne Barr, however. That same Republican tax legislation assures her of personally faring quite nicely. Realistically, she didn’t have to come out of retirement for the money. She came back because she missed us. Then again, Roseanne never really went away.

There was her turn as the moderately successful host of a television talk show. Her 2012 run for the Green Party presidential nomination. Her eventual campaign as the Peace and Freedom Party candidate.

The documentary about her presidential bid. Her reality show. The NBC sitcom pilot that was never picked up. And now, Roseanne: The Reboot.

Screen superstardom was never enough for Roseanne, though, nor will it ever be. And that’s just fine. As is her decision — calculated or not — to embrace the man who will make America great again. And while her somewhat skewed ideology may make for good ratings, it is potentially harmful to her and those whom she has chosen to target.

Like Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg. Roseanne recently re-tweeted a doctored photo of Hogg and accused him of giving the “Nazi salute” (False.)

Past re-tweets have included untruths about Hillary Clinton being part of a sex trafficking ring. Then there’s the interminable list of right-wing conspiracy theories she’s espoused.

But, hey, let Roseanne be Roseanne. She’s not the president. She’s a comedian. It’s all just an act. Right? She’s messing with us, telling jokes funny enough to make network executives squirm in their seats; which may possibly have led to the sudden disappearance of her ill-advised tweets. Better those than a sitcom destined to rake in huge profits. Now, that’s show biz.

BLAIR BESS is a Los Angeles-based television writer, producer, and columnist. He edits the online blog, and can be reached at