This week is Canadian upfronts week. What’s that? The Canadian commercial broadcasters, Rogers, Bell Media and Corus, announce what new U.S. series they have acquired for their channels. The point is to generate attention and ad sales.
Well, good luck with both. As viewers have more choices from more platforms, the allure of new network series declines and declines again. Once upon a time, not long ago, these events mattered more. These days, we wait until Netflix, HBO, Showtime or another cable or streaming service tells us what is really worth our attention.
CTV has acquired The Rookie from ABC. It is, allegedly, “hot.” It’s about the oldest rookie entering service for the L.A. Police Department. He’s played by Canadian Nathan Fillion and, the character is, like, 40 years old. CTV also has a reboot of Magnum P.I. Are you excited yet?
Global has picked up F.B.I., which is about what it says, presumably, and stars Canadian Missy Peregrym; plus it has New Amsterdam, a medical drama that is “touted as one of the most anticipated new fall series.” Says Global. Aren’t they all?
Rogers-owned Citytv has got its hands on the revival of Murphy Brown.
That’s nice. But what they all want is a truly hot, hot, hot show. Like Roseanne. CTV had it, but ABC cancelled it, as the whole world must know by now.
It’s not entirely, fully and completely dead, though. That’s the thing. A Roseanne spinoff is being cooked up. Even as I type this, as sure as the sun rose in L.A., there are executives, agents and actors hashing out the possibility of a Roseanne-free Roseanne spinoff. It might happen. It’s fraught, and success would be elusive, but this is network TV (see above, about Canadian TV) and, frankly, it’s inevitable.
Desperate times call for desperate measures and the sensational ratings for Roseanne‘s nine-episode revival season this year means that talks started soon after ABC issued its blunt one-sentence cancellation announcement last week following Roseanne Barr’s stunningly racist tweet.
There’s the key issue – Barr’s racist statements mean that the public and ABC cannot tolerate a spinoff that would enrich Roseanne Barr. The idea that Barr would continue to make money from the series is unimaginable. That’s what is truly fraught.
The original series was created by Matt Williams but based on a character, Roseanne Conner, created by Barr. How exactly Barr is untangled from a spinoff without large financial compensation is the task faced by lawyers, producers and people whose names appear way, way down in the credits.
The other fraught aspect is the basic business model of network TV. Hundreds of jobs were dependent on a new Roseanne season. What they call “staffing season” in Los Angeles, wherein shows hire teams for an expected number of episodes, is already over. People attached to Roseanne have already lost out on other jobs and it’s too late to find new positions. Further, once ABC exercised its option on a new season, key cast members were paid. They’ve been paid to work on something that won’t require their labour. According to usually reliable TV trade sites, stars Sara Gilbert, John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf are willing to consider an offshoot show.
Also what’s at stake, according to the trade publications, is advertising dollars already accrued by ABC for a new season. Anxious to use a huge hit to reach a mass audience, advertisers have paid in advance or committed to pay. They’ll need to be mollified by having their commercials appear on another hit show. But nothing has been as big as Roseanne and without a new Shonda Rhimes series coming to ABC – she has defected to Netflix – the cupboard looks bare. The Rookie? Good luck.
According to reports, a new series based around Sara Gilbert as daughter Darlene is a leading contender for the Roseanne spinoff premise. Gilbert might well be inclined, since she spearheaded the first revival. But a Darlene-centric show having the same ferocious impact is unimaginable.
Still, add all the factors involved and a spinoff feels inevitable. Networks have taken a chance on concepts and material with less allure. Money has been spent, ads are paid for and the press coverage would be sizable. All ABC needs to do is completely erase the toxicity of Roseanne Barr and ensure she doesn’t get a dime. Doable? ABC has the property and Netflix doesn’t. That makes it very doable.