Commentary

Would ABC Rebuild 'Roseanne' Without Roseanne Barr?

TV networks always come up with silver-lining premises when facing big quick disruptions. And for this upfront, ABC won’t be looking for just the lining -- but the whole winter coat.

ABC needs one since its decision to cancel the upcoming season of “Roseanne” -- which ascended in its nine-episode stint, starting this March, to become the top two or three shows on broadcast networks, depending on your Nielsen metrics.

ABC didn’t just cancel “Roseanne” because of performer Roseanne Barr's racist tweet against former President Obama staffer Valerie Jarrett — it upset its whole upfront advertising strategy.

Now comes one Hail Mary remedy: Taking the remaining — and still beloved — “Roseanne” cast and make a “Roseanne”-like TV show.

How will ABC do this? First, social-media sentiment seems to point to positive sentiment for virtually all cast members, including John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert.

A show around their characters could produce some positive results. While not quite the same thing, perhaps the closest example of a major star/character leaving a highly rated show under public glare was when Charlie Sheen left “Two and a Half Men.” The show still performed modestly well after his departure.

For ABC, even to get half the number “Roseanne” got this past season would make it worthwhile.

No, the “Roseanne Barr-less “Roseanne”   won’t be making the expected $60 million Kantar Media reckons ABC will lose from the canceled comedy. But it could still be better than other new, unproven comedies.

To be sure, broadcast network TV shows in development -- even reboots like “Roseanne” -- take a lot of planning. At best, ABC could make a midseason or later replacement if an quick decision was made.

For upfront TV buyers in the midst of deciding how much of a price increase to give broadcast networks, all this might be welcomed news.

Still, for ABC’s advertising sales executives what happened last week was an earthquake. Has there ever been a network losing its No. 1 prime-time TV show so quickly and unexpectedly?

For ABC, temperatures are dropping. A big winter coat is needed to keep out the cold.

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