Roseanne canned after racist tweet

Roseanne Barr with John Goodman, who played her on-screen husband. Photo: Getty Images
Roseanne Barr with John Goodman, who played her on-screen husband. Photo: Getty Images
Popular TV comedy Roseanne has been cancelled after star Roseanne Barr sparked outrage by comparing a black former Obama administration official to an ape in remarks on Twitter.

The show, a revival of the 1990s hit Roseanne, was ABC's most widely watched show for the TV season that ended last week. President Donald Trump has cited its huge viewership as evidence his supporters, who include Barr, want shows that speak to their concerns.

"Roseanne's Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show," ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said in a statement.

ABC is owned by Walt Disney, whose chief executive Bob Iger added on Twitter: "There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing."

In a since deleted comment on Twitter, Barr compared former Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett (61) to an ape. She wrote that if the Islamist political movement "muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby = vj."

Barr (65) apologised "for making a bad joke" about Jarrett, who is black and was born in Iran to American parents.

Jarrett, speaking at MSNBC’s Everyday Racism in America programme on Tuesday, said Disney executive Iger had called her before ABC announced the show's cancellation.

"I think we have to turn it into a teaching moment," Jarrett said at a taping that MSNBC released ahead of its scheduled broadcast.

"I’m fine. I’m worried about all the people out there who don’t have a circle of friends and followers coming to their defence.”

Barr's tweet followed a Twitter conversation referring to a Wikileaks allegation that the CIA spied on French presidential candidates during the Obama administration.

RERUNS ALSO PULLED

The original Roseanne ran from 1988 to 1997. It featured a blue-collar family, the Conners, with overweight parents struggling to get by and was praised for its realistic portrayal of working-class life.

Hollywood talent agency ICM said in a statement on Tuesday it would no longer represent Barr.

The fallout from the show’s cancellation also hit its lucrative syndication market as Viacom said it would pull reruns of the 1990s Roseanne episodes from its Paramount, TV Land and CMT cable networks. Another cable network, Laff, also said it was removing reruns of the show.

Hulu said the new Roseanne show would no longer be available on its streaming service.

Roseanne was ABC's biggest hit of the 2017-2018 season. The show drew an average of 18.7 million viewers, second only to CBS sitcom The Big Bang Theory, according to Nielsen data through May 20.

ABC aired nine episodes of Roseanne from March until May and generated $US22.8 million ($NZ33.1 million) in ad revenue, or 2.5% of the network’s total for the season, according to iSpot data. In late March, the network renewed the show for another season.

Earlier this month, the Roseanne reboot was the toast of ABC’s "upfront" event, where major advertisers and media gather to buy ads and preview the next season’s programming.

In the presentation at Lincoln Center in New York, President of Disney/ABC Television Group Ben Sherwood said it was the first time his network could boast of having the No 1 TV show in 24 years, according to several media reports. He claimed one in 10 Americans had seen Roseanne.

Reaction to Barr's comments by the show's supporting cast added to the pressure on ABC.

Sara Gilbert, who plays daughter Darlene on the series and served as a producer, said on Twitter that Barr's comments were "abhorrent and do not reflect the beliefs of our cast and crew or anyone associated with our show."

Emma Kenney, who plays Gilbert's on-screen daughter Harris, said soon after ABC cancelled the show that she had been planning to leave the series because of Barr's words.

"As I called my manager to quit working on Roseanne, I found out the show got canceled," Kenney wrote on Twitter. "Bullies do not win. Ever."

Emmy-winning comedian and Roseanne consulting producer Wanda Sykes was the first prominent figure associated with the show to cut ranks, saying on Twitter she was quitting, hours after Barr's comments.

Tuesday's furor echoed a 2013 incident in which Barr, in a subsequently deleted tweet, said black former Obama administration national security adviser Susan Rice "is a man with big swinging ape balls." 

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