Marcy Carsey Says She Wouldn't Revive 'Roseanne' After ABC Cancellation

The 'Roseanne' and 'Cosby Show' producer addressed the show's controversy when she was honored with the ATX Award in Television Excellence in Austin on Friday.
Courtesy of ATX Festival
Marcy Carsey

Marcy Carsey is finally speaking out about Roseanne and Bill Cosby.

The Roseanne and Cosby Show producer addressed the shows' controversies at ATX Television Festival, where she was being honored with the ATX Award in Television Excellence. In a conversation with HBO senior vp programming Kathleen McCaffrey, Carsey — who left the business in 2005 — was first asked about Roseanne's recent cancellation, following star Roseanne Barr's racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett.

"I am very proud of the show we did originally," Carsey said of Roseanne, adding that she didn't have any part in the revival but enjoyed it. "I thought the reboot was terrific — great job, great work. So all I can say is it's a shame. A couple of hundred of people doing really wonderful work — crew, cast, writers — to have that work so well and be so creatively interesting and have it just disappear like that when everybody, 200 or 300 people, thought they had a gig? It's a shame."

As for ABC's decision to abruptly end the show in the wake of Barr's tweet, Carsey says she thinks the network made the right call. "I totally understand why they made that decision, and I'm comfortable with it," she said, noting that she sees ABC making strides to not just have diversity on its schedule but also in its executive ranks. "I just think it wasn't what the network wanted represented."

When asked by The Hollywood Reporter how she feels about a Roseanne spinoff without Barr, she was hesitant. The network is reportedly in talks with executive producrs including Tom Werner for a new incarnation of the sitcom, sans Barr. "I would have a very difficult time," said Carsey. "I think I would just say, 'OK, we had a wonderful run.' I love the show we did all those years ago, and I would just move on."

Carsey was given the opportunity to comment on Cosby, who has been accused by more than 60 women of sexual misconduct and was recently found guilty of three accounts of aggravated indecent assault. Carsey insists she's "still so proud of" The Cosby Show, despite the revelations. "It was a life-changer for so many people who have talked to us since, saying things like, 'I grew up with that show and it really did change my life.' That stands, the impact was what it was."

The veteran TV producer paused before reflecting on both scandals. "All I can say is that life gives you these surprises. The Roseanne political stance, what a surprise. Bill Cosby … the guy that we worked with, the guy we knew him to be or thought him to be was a wonderful collaborator, a brilliant guy, very kind-hearted. When anyone was sick or had a loss, he was right there. So it was a shocker," she said, summarizing: "All these decades later to have these revelations, it's awful — but it happens."

The conversations led to a discussion about whether it's possible to separate art from the artist. "That's a tough one," she acknowledged, noting that she looks back on the old masters from the past. "Do we look at those iconic works of art and the first thing that comes into our head is that guy was mean or nasty? I don't think so," she added. "My wish would be that the work can stand apart. But as a person, it's hard for me, too."

Apart from The Cosby Show and Roseanne, Carsey looked back on her career. The Boston native remembered being "obsessed" with television when she was young. "It was introduced when I was a kid. We didn't have it until I was 10," she said of the medium. She reflected on going from being a 21-year-old assistant on The Tonight Show to becoming an ABC development executive, then founding her own production company, The Carsey-Werner Co., with Werner. She offered some surprising advice to those starting out in the industry. "You've got to be willing to get fired every day," said Carsey. "As a producer, you've got to be willing to shut down a show at a moment's notice."

When asked if she had the desire to come back to TV the way Norman Lear has in recent years, she gave a hard no. "Well, I did it — and it's different now and I'm not sure I like how it's different now," she said, explaining that she and Werner were truly independent and risked everything each time they did a show. "We bet on ourselves a lot, and I don't think you can do that now. The business has changed, and that model doesn't work anymore." Today, she'd need to have some sort of pod deal with a studio, which she noted she wouldn't know how to do. "I'm just not driven to do that. Now I can watch it and I'm not driven to produce it."