Back in May, when the new “Roseanne” show was imploding following Roseanne Barr’s explosive “planet of the apes” tweet, the TV Blog declared that the rise and fall of Roseanne would top every list of the year’s top stories in TV when the year comes to a close in December.
Well, not anymore. This summer’s Les Moonves sex harassment story at CBS could nudge the Roseanne story out of the top spot.
The “Roseanne” story was already on its way to the top of the list even before the tweet implosion. The revival of the “Roseanne” show was the year’s most notable TV story just for the phenomenal success it was having.
The show took the TV biz by storm. Not only was it drawing great ratings and some of the biggest audiences that network TV had yet seen last season, but it also was what we in the news business refer to as a “talker.”
This was a show that people talked about and debated -- bringing the kind of attention to prime-time TV that the networks rarely attract anymore.
Whether for or against, the conversations that erupted over the show on the cable news channels, talk radio and social media were more a help than a hindrance to the show's success.
Audiences flocked to it and by mid-May, Roseanne Barr and her show were the centerpieces of ABC’s upfront presentation in New York.
Not long after that, the whole thing cratered, making an already great story even greater. The story continues in various ways this summer.
Roseanne herself has been issuing self-styled statements in the form of tweets and YouTube videos. And she made headlines recently when Sean Hannity interviewed her on Fox News Channel.
In addition, ABC is busily producing the “Roseanne” spinoff, “The Conners,” for this fall. The premiere of that show -- scheduled for Tuesday, October 16, at 8 p.m. Eastern -- will likely be the most widely covered fall premiere of the new season.
Then came the last week of July and the publication on-line of the New Yorker exposé in which six women accused CBS Chairman and CEO Leslie Moonves of various acts of sexual misconduct. The story was published in the magazine the following week.
In the context of the present day and the #MeToo movement, it is impossible to conceive of a scenario in which Moonves keeps his job.
Moreover, based on the way the stories are presented and told in the New Yorker story, the odds do not favor an outcome in which the independent investigation ordered by the CBS Board of Directors proclaims the stories to be untrue and then declares Moonves’ innocence. These stories seem very credible and not likely to be debunked.
Moonves, 68, has been chairman and CEO of CBS since 2003. He is a charismatic promoter of broadcast television. And he is credited with guiding the many programming decisions that have made CBS the most-watched TV network in America (in total audience) for years.
In many ways, Moonves is not only the face of CBS, but the face of network television in general. When he leaves, it will truly represent the end of an era.
That is why his fate and, by extension, the future direction of the old and very successful company he runs, represents a story that seems poised to surpass the “Roseanne” story in its importance to all of television.
For now, the Moonves story continues pending the outcome of the investigation.