A 'Roseanne' Spinoff? ABC Sets Meeting to Hear Ideas

There have been no formal discussions about any specific idea following the network's swift cancellation.
Adam Rose/ABC
'Roseanne'

It's the (multi)million-dollar question: Will ABC try to replace Roseanne with a version of the show sans its radioactive star?

Multiple sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the Disney-owned network is open to potential spinoff ideas with a catch: They have to be without Roseanne Barr, and the actress and former head writer of the sitcom would not be able to financially benefit from any new incarnation of the series. A meeting about potential ways to continue TV's No. 1 show is expected to be held next week, sources say.

Representatives for ABC declined comment.

ABC on Tuesday canceled Roseanne after Barr's racist tweet directed at a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama. The star, who has been an outspoken advocate for President Donald Trump, later apologized and said she "begged" Disney-ABC TV Group chief Ben Sherwood not to cancel the series. (ABC declined comment, though multiple sources within the network contend that conversation never happened and Barr has since deleted that tweet.)

Roseanne finished as broadcast television's No. 1 show among total viewers and the advertiser-coveted adults 18-49 demographic. Still, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey — the lone African-American broadcast network chief — called Barr's comment "abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent" with parent company Disney and ABC's values and canceled the show hours after the star's tweet.

Meanwhile, sources say ABC and producer Tom Werner — whose Carsey-Werner banner executive produced the original Roseanne and its revival — are considering everything. A TMZ report on Friday indicated that star Sara Gilbert — who plays Darlene and was the driving force of the 10th season revival — has been actively pitching a rebranded series built around her character. Sources familiar with the conversations for a potential Roseanne 3.0 — who declined to go on record for this story — said the only conversations that have been had are the fact that ABC is open to hearing pitches for ways to continue the show without Barr's involvement or financial benefit.

Continuing Roseanne without Barr attached in any form may prove challenging. The series was created by Matt Williams and is based upon a character created by Barr. That could make an offshoot a thorny debate as it's unclear if just the character of Roseanne Conner falls under Barr's oversight.

Stars Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman still expect to be paid for the now-scrapped 11th season. The trio, along with Barr, negotiated new deals for the 13-episode season at $300,000 per episode (up from $250,000 for season 10). They expect to be paid for at least 10 episodes since their options were exercised. What's less clear is if and how the writing staff, including showrunner Bruce Helford, will be compensated.

"Nobody really knows yet what kind of compensation they're going to get," writer and exec producer Dave Caplan told The Hollywood Reporter hours after the news hit, noting, "Everybody is a little bit on edge about how it's going to turn out."

ABC now finds itself in a unique position after cancelling TV's No. 1 show, which was due to return in the fall and open the network's Tuesday lineup. The network is heading into the 2018-19 broadcast season without TV's top show and without a new series from Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy, Scandal) for the first time in years. Roseanne was expected to drive at least $60 million in ad revenue for its 11th season, according to Kantar Media. ABC, sources say, could be on the hook for "tens of millions of dollars" after axing the series.

In a memo to staff Wednesday, Sherwood apologized to the now-unemployed staff of Roseanne and expressed hope that the network could find a way to work together down the road.