Muse Reporting on the arts and culture

The Conners nixes two main characters: Roseanne and Trump

Arts | The ABC sitcom returns with less of everything that made it popular with viewers
by Lynde Langdon
Posted 10/19/18, 01:35 pm

When the show formerly known as Roseanne premiered Tuesday, it was missing more than just its matriarch and namesake. ABC fired Roseanne Barr in May for tweeting a racist insult about Valerie Jarrett, a former White House adviser to President Barack Obama. But network execs were loath to give up the show’s millions of viewers, so they came up with The Conners, a Barr-free continuation of the family’s story that opened with Roseanne’s family mourning her unexpected death.

The first episode explores the family’s grief at a cellular level as they get used to their new normal without a spouse, sister, mother, and grandmother. Should they rearrange the kitchen? What bills are due? And who is going to return all the casserole dishes left by well-wishers? The setting is fertile ground for a poignantly funny show to which anyone who has lost a loved one could relate—if not for the stiff acting and clunky writing. Gone is the easy dialogue and precise timing of 1990s-era multicamera sitcoms (think Seinfeld, Friends, and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air), leaving behind an awkward awareness by viewers that none of what they’re watching is real.

The previous season of Roseanne drew in droves of viewers by fulfilling a conservative craving for a Republican character who wasn’t a villain. The main character’s ubiquitous praise of President Donald Trump turned the show into a virtual Make America Great Again rally each week with an audience that outnumbered most other network prime-time offerings. It is unclear why producers wanted to tone down politics on the show, but even before Barr left, they were saying the following season would focus less on the White House and more on family dynamics. Already, the show’s numbers are dropping off without the Trump factor: 18.2 million people watched last season’s premiere, but The Conners premiere only drew about 10.4 million viewers.

(It’s worth noting that while Roseanne and The Conners are Republican-friendly, they are not entirely family-friendly. The show regularly deals with topics such as homosexuality and drug abuse.)

The success of The Conners and Fox’s Last Man Standing will likely determine whether networks invest more in series that show Republicans in a positive light. Even with the drop-in viewership, The Conners remains the most-watched comedy on ABC, and the ratings for Last Man, which was dropped by ABC last year, came in high, too, showing that the conservatives are ready and waiting for more TV shows about them and for them.

Hat Tip Films LLC Hat Tip Films LLC Dean Cain as Detective James Woods in Gosnell

Against all odds

Gosnell: The Trial of America’s Biggest Serial Killer made more than $1 million in its first weekend at the box office and broke into the Top 10 in ticket sales Monday through Wednesday of this week, according to Box Office Mojo. The movie stars Dean Cain as the lead detective in the investigation into abortionist Kermit Gosnell’s horrific Philadelphia practice, in which he routinely killed babies born alive. Gosnell was convicted of three counts of murder in 2013 and is serving life in prison without the possibility of parole.

The movie is succeeding despite the ongoing virtual press blackout against it. After its opening weekend, the film’s producers pointed out on Facebook that it had received just six reviews, while other wide releases garnered dozens or hundreds. The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes now shows seven reviews (one by WORLD’s Megan Basham): three positive from Christian or conservative reviewers, three negative from secular journalists, and one positive from an independent online reviewer. The film’s audience score on Rotten Tomatoes is through the roof. Among the 1,015 viewers who had rated Gosnell as of Friday morning, 98 percent said they liked it. —L.L.

Associated Press/Photo by Peter Dejong Associated Press/Photo by Peter Dejong Rembrandt’s The Night Watch at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

A work in progress

Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum announced this week plans to restore one of Rembrandt’s most famous paintings, and workers will do so while the world watches. The Night Watch is an 11-foot-tall painting depicting a troop of civic guards and was painted by the Dutch master in 1642. The painting last underwent a major restoration in 1975.

Starting next year, the museum plans to build a glass chamber around the artwork for conservators to work in. The project will be livestreamed over the internet and is expected to take several years. —L.L.

Associated Press/Photos by Mark Lennihan Associated Press/Photos by Mark Lennihan Big Bird and Caroll Spinney

A childhood friend retires

Caroll Spinney, the man behind Sesame Street’s Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, retired this week after spending 50 years on the long-running children’s program.

In an interview with The New York Times, Spinney revealed it was his idea to play Big Bird as a child, not as a country bumpkin as the producers originally planned.

“He can be all the things that children are. He can learn with the kids,” Spinney remembered telling the producers at the time. —L.L.

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Lynde Langdon

Lynde is a WORLD Digital’s managing editor and reports on popular and fine arts. She lives in Wichita, Kan., with her husband and two daughters. Follow Lynde on Twitter @lmlangdon.

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  •  Xion's picture
    Posted: Fri, 10/19/2018 07:30 pm

    The untimely death of Roseanne's character was written as a opiod overdose.  Death was not enough.  It became a character assassination.  In the real world, Roseanne was fired over her politics.  The Tweet was merely convenient.   It is odd that the article above follows the liberal media protocol, always prefacing what Roseanne said with the word racist.  But where is the racism in her comment?   

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Fri, 10/19/2018 10:00 pm

    "Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj"

    Black people have suffered cruelly at the hands of racists who called them monkeys and apes for centuries.  Phrenologists promoted anti-black bigotry on the basis of the--in their view--"ape-like" shape of black people's heads.

    So Ms. Barr was either a complete ignoramus or a racist to even think that joking that a black person is descended from apes is funny.  You never joke that black people are descended from apes.  How anyone can think that this is a harmless bit of idiocy is beyond me.

    The reference to the Muslim brotherhood is not funny either, but for different reasons.

  • Sam C
    Posted: Tue, 10/23/2018 06:26 pm

    Mr. Bossard:

    Maybe the joke could just as easily be seen as poking at the ridiculousness of the theory of evolution.

    If we start taking our racism seriously, and won't joke about it, then I fear we will take it seriously enough to open a gulag or two. Which would be fine, as long as we don't joke about it.

  •  Marlene's picture
    Posted: Sat, 10/20/2018 12:37 pm

    Brendan Bossard:  Evolutionists since Darwin have said that humans decended from apes.  So shouldn't everyone be insulted, not just blacks?

  • not silent
    Posted: Sun, 10/21/2018 04:55 pm

    With all due respect, Brendan Bossard is correct.  The remark about Planet of the Apes was not referring to a common ancestor shared by all races.  It was almost certainly referring to horrible old propaganda about African Americans being ape-like which was supposed to justify racist beliefs that African Americans were less intellligent than caucasians.  (It was probalby also used to justify racist practices like segregation, etc.)   I was a child in Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement, but I was still exposed to that stuff. 

    I am not African American; and, although I had a relative who taught us to appreciate equality and civil rights very early, I have had to work to understand different points of view. It's hard not to get defensive if I feel that my own background is being presented negatively, even though I may need to listen and learn something about it.  If we are going to work together and keep from becoming divided, we need to give and take; and that involves listening to concerns about things like this.

  •  Brendan Bossard's picture
    Brendan Bossard
    Posted: Wed, 10/24/2018 09:15 am

    Sam C, God gives us what we give to others.  If you want people to listen to you, you need to listen to them.  The joke's offense lay in historical fact, of which we should not make light.  Roseanne suffered the just consequences of extreme foolishness for someone of her stature.  Wisdom need not fear punishment.