Some may call it karma or even long-overdue justice. Regardless, the news may surprise and please fans and defenders of Roseanne Barr.
Channing Dungey, who was the first African-American woman to head the entertainment division of a major broadcast network, is now the former president of ABC Entertainment following the announcement of her resignation last week.
It was Dungey who decided to cancel “Roseanne” following the star’s controversial tweet in May about former Obama administration staffer Valerie Jarrett, who is also African American, that was labeled as racist.
Dungey, named president in 2016, defended her decision to cancel the popular show by saying, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”
Comedian and Oscar Winner Monique said @therealroseanne is her sister and we should not label her racist and throw her away. This is the best interview ever. Monique is currently blacklisted in Hollywood for keeping it real. Please RT I want everyone to see this clip! So real pic.twitter.com/3XLNFjpNBO
— Terrence K. Williams (@w_terrence) July 27, 2018
A spinoff of “Roseanne” debuted last month under the title of “The Conners,” with the Roseanne character having been written out of the show due to an accidental drug overdose.
The ratings were respectable for its Oct. 16 debut — likely from fans who were curious about how Roseanne’s death played out on the show — but have continued to decline as the original “Roseanne” fanbase has stayed away from the show.
Nothing spells trouble for a network show like a consistent erosion of viewers each week. It means people don’t like the show enough to bother coming back for more.
And when ratings decline, so do advertising dollars. As a result, MSN.com reports that main stars of the series, Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman, are likely going to be asked to take pay cuts.
Lots of new shows are canceled each season, but in the wake of the abrupt fall from the record-setting ratings for “Roseanne’s” revival in March to its cancellation in May to the rapid failure of “The Conners,” Dungey has resigned her position.
“I’m incredibly proud of what the team and I have accomplished over the years, and all the meaningful and impactful programming we’ve developed,” Dungey said in a statement announcing her resignation. “This job has been the highlight of my career. While I’ve loved every moment and knew I could call ABC home for many years to come, I’m excited to tackle new challenges.”
Although no official line has been drawn connecting the cancellation of “Roseanne” and Dungey’s departure, the cold reality is that network television is an extremely competitive industry. Bad PR and low ratings can lead to executives being encouraged to resign, if not flat-out being terminated, after very short tenures.
In a case of “woulda, coulda, shoulda,” it is easy to speculate how things could have fared much differently for ABC, Dungey, Barr and the show’s cast and crew had the situation been handled differently.
Instead of weaponizing a “racism” claim against the network’s money-making star, Barr’s apology could have been accepted and a suspension or other penalty could have been imposed to keep the show going, while taking whatever stand the network felt was necessary from a PR standpoint.
While some advertisers may have caved to bullying tactics from the left, others likely would have remained in light of the show’s loyal following. That would have helped secure work for the cast and crew, who now face unemployment due to the almost inevitable fate that awaits “The Conners.”
A much-hyped, high-profile show for ABC is dying a slow, painful and unnecessary death, due to a knee-jerk reaction by Dungey six months ago and the quick use of a “racism” charge to essentially blacklist the career of a popular star. Many of the show’s fans linked ABC’s quick firing of Barr to her support for President Donald Trump.
Dungey’s exit may be too late to make the situation right with Barr or her fans. But the situation with “Roseanne” and “The Conners” isn’t the only blemish of her tenure at the network.
Dungey also canceled “Last Man Standing,” the Tim Allen sitcom that was a huge hit among conservative viewers. The show has since been picked up by Fox and remains a ratings success.
The New York Times noted that Dungey also lost popular show creators Shonda Rimes (“Grey’s Anatomy”) and Kenya Barrish (“Black-ish”) to Netflix. Meanwhile, ABC is in last place among the four major networks in prime-time ratings.
Dungey will be replaced by Karey Burke, a programming executive from Freeform, the cable network owned by ABC. It will be interesting to see if Burke will make an effort to create programming that appeals to conservatives rather than villainizing them.
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