Random thoughts about watching, working and living in the arts, from HMS co-founder and executive producer Scott Silberstein. "In The Moment" offers a quick 60-second read about new ideas, events, shows and productions in the HMS world, and "Adventures In Yes" takes a deeper dive into how art and media reflect, define and inspire our world. Enjoy!

May 30, 2018


Roseanne Will Be Fine. What About Everyone Else?

It takes a very big village to create a TV show, and one horrific racist tweet to put them all out of a job. (photo credit: ABC)

ABC cancelled Roseanne for its star/creator’s racist taunts, for which she’s yet to genuinely apologize but "deeply regrets," for, among other reasons, the damage she's done to the careers of her co-workers. All well and good, Ms. Barr, but the damage is done, and no amount of Ambien (which she says influenced her middle-of-the-night tweetstorm) can account for your appallingly casual display of racism and ignorance.

There are others who are trying to equate Barr’s tweet with a certain vulgarity thrown at Ivanka Trump by comedian Samantha Bee, suggesting that if Barr should lose her show over saying something racist that disparages entire people, Bee should lose hers for dropping a c-bomb on one particular very rich and public figure. Not a chance. If Bee screwed up, it was not because she made a scathing indictment of the President's daughter, it was because for a moment she crossed a line she almost always walks brilliantly, when she let anger and outrage overtake the content and comedy. Almost anyone can drop a c-bomb; few can conceive and deliver satire like Bee, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver. So, no, not Bee's finest moment and, yes, one worth apologizing for (which she has, unlike Barr, who simply expresses "regrets").

I like to think Bee's as upset with herself for undermining her own valid point as she is anything else. Beyond that, her offense was throwing a nasty and vindictive insult at ine particular public figure; Barr’s, in demonstrating historical ignorance and jaw-dropping racism, was far worse and the far bigger offense. Bee displayed a momentary indiscretion, Barr a lifelong prejudice.

What truly frustrates me about the Bee story is that the furor over it has overshadowed a much bigger, relevant and important story.

Cancellation was a bold and appropriate move for ABC, but let’s not lose sight of who’s really getting hurt here. Like a lot of wealthy Americans who have discovered that money can’t buy you love but it can buy you an awful lot of choices and privileges, Roseanne Barr is going to do just fine, despite her heinous display of racism (and some might argue because of it).

But as Shonda Rhimes tweeted, "The terrible part is all of the talented innocent people who worked on that show now suffer because of this."

Yes, exactly. While it’s plausible to suggest that there are already book deals, speaking engagements, stand-up tours and Fox and Sinclair hosting opportunities on Barr’s desk, it’s a certainty that most of the talented innocent people to whom Rhimes refers who were depending on this show for their livelihood are now left wondering how they're now going to pay the bills.

Let’s not assume that any of the cast, except probably Barr herself, are in a position to never have to work for the rest of their lives. There are precious few actors who can afford not work for the rest of this year. But it certainly doesn't stop there. There’s the camera crew, and all the lighting and audio technicians. The set and costume designers. The editors and production assistants. The hair, make-up and wardrobe teams. The caterers, the studio staff, the interns. And on. And on. And on. People who have every right to believe that Rosanne Barr gives not one good damn about them.

Wasn’t Roseanne was supposed be about the forgotten men and women?

There are those who believe that people who chose to work on a show starring Roseanne Barr are getting what they deserve. That’s a nasty and dismissive swipe worthy of Barr herself, not to mention a certain Commander-In-Chief, people who know a thing or two about making horrendous personal and business decisions and leaving bodies in their wake. Such an assertion stems from the assumption that all of our concerns are cultural. Some are economic. Sometimes we just need the gig. And sometimes we think we're getting into one kind of situation and it turns into another. In any case, a lot of regular folks just got an undeserved kick in the teeth, courtesy of a clueless, bigoted, wealthy person. No discussion of ABC’s decision to cancel Roseanne, correct as it was, is complete without taking them into account.

Which is why there is a bigger point to be made here, and a larger conversation to be had. The Roseanne debacle is a perfect metaphor for so much of what ails our country right now. There is so much pain, inflicted on so many people, by a relative few with so much power and privilege. People whose sense of entitlement and lack of empathy lead them to behave with careless and callous disregard for the consequences of their actions. People for whom privilege is an opportunity to be indulgent instead of responsible, insulting instead of empathic, vindictive instead of compassionate. These are the people who talk about "winning," instead of being and the doing some genuine good. These are the people who crush the folks that Roseanne purported to represent, the folks whose stories deserve to be told and need to be heard.

Who's treating them like "deplorables" now?

If only ABC could pull a House of Cards and write Barr's character off the show, and then put more thoughtful stories in the hands of the actors who would have remained, chief among them the incomparable Laurie Metcalf. Why not a new show with her at the center of it? Seriously, instead of Roseanne, why not Jackie?

How fascinating it would be to watch one of the world's greatest actors embody the stories that Roseanne was never fully equipped to tell in the first place, and how great it would be as a result all of those now-unemployed people got their jobs back.

Now that’s a story I’d like to see.

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