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Roseanne Barr's stormy past foreshadowed her show's dramatic end

The abrupt, precipitous demise of Roseanne Barr's TV show marked merely the latest chapter in a career distinguished ...

Posted: May 31, 2018 9:28 AM
Updated: May 31, 2018 9:28 AM

The abrupt, precipitous demise of Roseanne Barr's TV show marked merely the latest chapter in a career distinguished by soaring highs -- including "Roseanne's" most recent ratings breakthrough -- and a near-equal measure of tumult.

Barr burst onto the scene as a stand-up comic in the 1980s, landing a coveted spot on "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" in 1985. But her profile entered a new stratosphere in 1988, when the comic's "domestic goddess" routine served as the cornerstone of "Roseanne," an ABC sitcom that became an almost instant sensation.

The late Brandon Stoddard, who ordered the show during his stint running ABC, once said that Barr "captured something that was going on in the country, which was women's confusion and attendant anger about their role in families and children and the household."

At its peak, the program -- premiering at a point when there was far less competition, and the Fox network was still in its infancy -- averaged more than 35 million viewers, consistently ranking among the top five primetime shows through its first six seasons.

Barr was no stranger to controversy, including her tone-deaf rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at a San Diego Padres game ("Roseanne" producer Tom Werner was among the team's owners), which then-president George H.W. Bush called "disgraceful."

Barr nevertheless benefited handsomely from her show's success, cashing in with sweetened contracts and production commitments, including a series starring her then-husband, Tom Arnold. But she frequently chafed at what she saw as slights from the network, with producer Marcy Carsey recalling in an interview for the Archives of American Television that the star "didn't understand how you behave, and what your job is as a professional on a set. So she was difficult to work with."

Those problems only grew as the show progressed, which produced inordinately high turnover among the writing staff.

One producer, Jeff Harris, took out a full-page ad in Daily Variety to announce that he was leaving the series, saying he had decided to "vacation in the relative peace and quiet of Beirut." At another point, Barr issued numbered jerseys to the writers, sending a message that they were so disposable she didn't need to learn their names.

In the 1990s, the task of dealing with Barr fell to then-ABC Entertainment president Ted Harbert, who recalled being summoned to Barr's house to hold meetings -- and seek ways to mollify her -- while Barr and Arnold sat in bed.

Remembering the level of discord, Harbert told CNN, "It did happen more than any other show," adding that it was often "difficult to identify what her problem was, and how to fix it."

Harbert noted that there's a long history of talent becoming demanding once they are associated with a major success, joking that while he got to experience "the good times" in fielding Barr's complaints, when you're in the position of running a network, "It's a cost of doing business."

"Roseanne" ended its historic run on ABC in 1997, and Barr segued largely into the world of reality television. She hosted a syndicated talk show, then appeared in a documentary-style series titled "The Real Roseanne Show." ABC yanked the latter after airing just two episodes in 2003, when its sister network -- then-known as ABC Family -- didn't proceed with a planned companion show, titled "The Domestic Goddess Hour."

Barr surfaced again in a Lifetime series, "Roseanne's Nuts," which chronicled her move to Hawaii to live on and operate a nut farm. Among other things, she cited her disgust with Los Angeles in her direct-to-camera interviews.

"I can't act like I'm interested in somebody who's boring the f--k out of me, and I don't have to because I'm too g--damn rich," she said in the heavily bleeped premiere.

"Roseanne's" return followed a flurry of similar made-for-TV revivals, including new versions of "Full House" and "The Gilmore Girls" (for Netflix) and NBC's "Will & Grace." Even before the show premiered, there were those who expressed concern about the star's more outlandish postings on social media and her embrace of various conspiracy theories -- raising questions, as Vox chronicled, about the Sept. 11 terror attacks, circulating material claiming Democrats are behind a pedophile sex-trafficking ring and calling Israel a "Nazi state."

The huge tune-in for "Roseanne" when it premiered in March surely had ABC officials -- in serious need of a hit -- hoping that they could control the mercurial star, or perhaps more accurately, that Barr would control herself, to reap those benefits.

It didn't turn out that way, reinforcing the sense that understanding Roseanne Barr is, perhaps, one of the few things more difficult than managing her.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 13260

Reported Deaths: 625
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds89324
Lauderdale67855
Madison65421
Scott58910
Neshoba51231
Forrest48034
Jones46713
DeSoto4616
Leake38410
Holmes36523
Rankin3496
Jackson29613
Copiah2784
Attala27014
Lincoln24320
Monroe24224
Leflore24025
Harrison2346
Newton2243
Lamar2194
Yazoo2152
Pearl River20327
Pike19611
Adams18615
Lowndes1607
Noxubee1586
Washington1535
Warren1506
Bolivar14010
Jasper1393
Oktibbeha13410
Smith13110
Covington1271
Chickasaw12612
Clarke12616
Kemper12510
Lafayette1233
Carroll11310
Wayne1090
Marion1088
Lee1045
Clay993
Winston981
Coahoma983
Lawrence901
Hancock8711
Simpson850
Itawamba857
Yalobusha824
Wilkinson829
Montgomery781
Sunflower773
Grenada752
Jefferson Davis712
Union715
Tippah7011
Marshall693
Panola622
Calhoun604
Tate591
Claiborne581
Humphreys537
Amite521
Walthall510
Tunica483
Perry462
Jefferson400
Prentiss383
Stone300
Choctaw292
Webster271
Pontotoc263
Franklin252
Tishomingo250
Quitman240
Tallahatchie241
George191
Alcorn151
Benton140
Greene71
Sharkey70
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 14478

Reported Deaths: 551
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile1996109
Jefferson161488
Montgomery118630
Marshall6499
Tuscaloosa50512
Lee49832
Franklin4476
Shelby43319
Tallapoosa39662
Butler34411
Chambers33623
Madison2964
Baldwin2749
Elmore2637
Etowah23610
DeKalb2213
Coffee2001
Walker1981
Dallas1973
Sumter1916
Lowndes18610
Houston1644
Morgan1621
Autauga1593
Calhoun1413
Choctaw1414
Pike1360
Colbert1362
Marengo1336
Hale1293
Russell1280
Lauderdale1282
Randolph1257
Wilcox1187
Marion11310
Bullock1111
Barbour1101
Clarke1022
St. Clair1021
Pickens934
Talladega912
Greene894
Chilton871
Dale830
Cullman760
Limestone740
Jackson692
Covington651
Washington645
Winston620
Macon602
Bibb591
Crenshaw582
Henry562
Blount491
Escambia433
Lawrence420
Coosa331
Geneva330
Cherokee332
Perry310
Monroe282
Clay272
Conecuh251
Lamar200
Cleburne131
Fayette110
Unassigned00
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