The much-ballyhooed Roseanne reboot finally debuted last night. Though Roseanne’s newfound love of Trump worried us, initial reports brought us rays of optimism. Now the overnight Roseanne ratings are in, and the show did better than anyone expected.
Last night’s two-episode Roseanne premiere brought in 18.1 million viewers, meaning the Roseanne reboot is the highest-rated scripted show since Empire, and the highest-rated sitcom in more than three years.
Roseanne Barr has been an outspoken Trump supporter for a while now. Late last year she embraced the (thoroughly debunked) Pizzagate conspiracy theory by saying her vote for Trump was because he’s “fighting pedophiles.” (Her claim about fighting pedophiles came around the same time as Trump endorsed accused pedophile Roy Moore.)
Barr’s politics even caused her to fall out with her longtime friend and drag legend Jackie Beat, who wrote on Twitter:
I’m going to be completely honest. The only reason I haven’t told @therealroseanne to fuck off is because I simply cannot believe that she actually supports @realDonaldTrump. I’m convinced I’m being punk’d. It makes absolutely no sense so my brain is all like “DOES NOT COMPUTE.”
After Beat sent that tweet, Barr blocked her.
Barr also made it clear that her character on the series would also be a Trump supporter, saying:
In [Roseanne], I’ve always tried to have it be a true reflection of the society we live in. I feel like half the people voted for Trump and half didn’t, so it’s just realistic. And, in fact, it was working-class people who elected Trump, so I felt like that was very real and something that needed to be discussed and especially about polarization in the family and people actually hating other people for the way they voted, which I feel is not American.
Of course, it’d be boring if the Roseanne reboot just tweaked the left’s nose. There was also controversy on the right; back in September, the anti-LGBTQ group One Million Moms called for a boycott on the new show.
The reactionary group was upset about the announcement of a new character, Mark. (Not to be confused with Becky’s ne’er-do-well boyfriend.) The new Mark was announced as the “gender-creative” child of Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and David (Johnny Galecki).
One Million Moms weren’t exactly fans of the original show. They also lamented the Roseanne lesbian kiss episode as making same-sex affection “sadly a common scene on network television today.”
While there will likely be some drop-off in the ratings of future episodes — there always is, after all — one aspect of the ratings bodes well for its future success. As mentioned, the premiere was two episodes — and the second half-hour gained viewers over the first.
These high Roseanne ratings have been even more surprising to some commentators, as Roseanne aired at 8 p.m., without a lead-in. Typically, networks will program a new show to run after one of its most successful shows, in hopes that viewers will keep watching the network.
By not pairing Roseanne with a strong lead-in — in fact, the reboot pre-empted successful sitcoms The Middle and Fresh Off the Boat — that shows the faith ABC executives had in the program. (In fact, the show following Roseanne, Black-ish, saw its ratings double this week.)
To compare numbers, when the Will and Grace reboot premiered it pulled down a respectable 10 million viewers. As for the other shows that ran in the same time slot, The Voice had almost 9 million viewers and NCIS had just shy of 12 million. (FOX’s Lethal Weapon and the CW’s The Flash each couldn’t break 2 million viewers.)