Hollywood Flashback: 'Roseanne' Won Comedy Emmys Despite All the Drama in 1988

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Though ABC recently cancelled the reboot following the star’s racist tweet, the controversy was not the first time the series generated a tsunami of press.

The swift rise and fall of ABC’s Roseanne reboot, canceled May 29 over a racist tweet, generated a tsunami of press. But so did the original series’ launch in 1988, when it scored that season’s highest-rated debut, with 21.4 million households watching. The sitcom drew excellent reviews, though The Hollywood Reporter could probably have omitted its body-shaming comments about Barr being “a beef shank of a woman” and co-star John Goodman “a head-to-toe beer belly.” Still, THR commended the ABC show for having “as many laughs per minute as it has cans of creamed corn on the shelf.”

Though Roseanne was well received, there was as much on-set turmoil as there was buzz. Series creator Matt Williams announced he had “elected to move on” because of his “creative tensions” with Barr midway through the first season. His replacement, Jeff Harris, lasted a year before taking out an ad saying he was leaving for “the relative peace and quiet of Beirut.” (The Lebanese civil war was still raging.)

Barr’s fights with her sister, manager and lawyer all made the news as she also found time to divorce her first husband and marry, then divorce, Tom Arnold. Plus, in 1990 she sued the tabloids for $35 million under federal racketeering laws.

Through it all, the show ran nine seasons and won its cast four Emmys. Despite ABC’s high hopes, the reboot now looks unlikely to win any. 

This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.



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