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: 94021

Reported Deaths: 2846
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds6979155
DeSoto542555
Harrison374372
Jackson339967
Madison321286
Rankin319375
Lee261067
Jones242778
Forrest239570
Washington218171
Lafayette209239
Lauderdale2007124
Bolivar179565
Oktibbeha175450
Lamar163534
Neshoba1540103
Panola144527
Sunflower142144
Lowndes140357
Warren138150
Leflore137080
Pontotoc123616
Pike121348
Monroe118965
Scott116425
Copiah116333
Coahoma112827
Holmes109258
Marshall107615
Lincoln106853
Grenada106235
Yazoo103929
Simpson101443
Union97824
Tate95537
Leake94037
Adams92136
Wayne87721
Pearl River86750
Marion84133
Prentiss81517
Covington80922
Alcorn77511
Itawamba77021
Newton75923
Tallahatchie75718
George75113
Winston72519
Tishomingo66137
Chickasaw65624
Tippah64516
Attala64125
Walthall59425
Clay58117
Hancock56421
Jasper55515
Noxubee54315
Clarke53739
Smith52414
Calhoun50612
Tunica48113
Montgomery45520
Claiborne45216
Lawrence42512
Yalobusha41814
Perry40918
Quitman3755
Humphreys37315
Stone35711
Greene34617
Webster33113
Jefferson Davis32811
Carroll31212
Amite31110
Wilkinson30217
Kemper28615
Sharkey26312
Jefferson2439
Benton2201
Franklin1893
Choctaw1795
Issaquena1033
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 131988

Reported Deaths: 2304
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19123337
Mobile13122290
Montgomery8688173
Madison763075
Tuscaloosa7323114
Lee575159
Shelby571950
Baldwin508749
Marshall387943
Calhoun337439
Etowah336547
Morgan321426
Houston272722
Elmore255847
DeKalb237119
St. Clair224335
Walker224380
Talladega207726
Limestone200119
Cullman186218
Dallas174926
Franklin174528
Russell17312
Autauga169124
Lauderdale165333
Colbert160926
Escambia156425
Blount156014
Jackson151611
Chilton150227
Dale133343
Covington131127
Coffee12838
Pike11619
Tallapoosa113683
Chambers113242
Clarke105517
Marion94828
Butler91138
Barbour8387
Winston71612
Marengo70119
Lowndes64927
Pickens63814
Bibb63610
Randolph62212
Hale61528
Lawrence59220
Bullock59114
Geneva5814
Monroe5768
Cherokee56916
Clay5527
Washington54913
Perry5386
Wilcox53111
Conecuh52411
Crenshaw52331
Macon47820
Henry4754
Fayette4269
Sumter41819
Lamar3532
Choctaw34512
Cleburne3326
Greene30015
Coosa1653
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Few Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 70°
Columbus
Few Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 70°
Oxford
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 68°
Starkville
Overcast
70° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 70°
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather