9:11am PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Roseanne' Co-Showrunner Whitney Cummings Exits
As the Roseanne revival is winding down its first season back after nearly two decades, the ABC hit is making some behind-the-scenes changes for its expanded 11th cycle.
During a Friday morning conference call with reporters, executive producer Bruce Helford revealed that Whitney Cummings — who served alongside him as co-showrunner — will not be returning for season 11.
"I think Whitney is going to be too busy," Helford told The Hollywood Reporter during the call. "Whitney is always a member of the family of the show but she's got so much going on. I don't know how she had time to work on the show in the first place. I don't think she'll be able to join us in the capacity she was joining us in this first season."
"Working on Roseanne was a surreal, incredible experience," Cummings wrote Friday in a social media post. "Due to work commitments and my tour schedule, I'm gonna have to watch the Conners from the sidelines next season. It was an honor to work with such an incredibly talented group of actors, writers and crew. Harvey Levin, you can stop calling my cell phone now."
During a Hollywood Reporter roundtable with the Roseanne stars and exec producers, Cummings said she "became the PC police" during the revival.
"I was the 'you can't say that anymore' and 'now this is the word we use' one," said Cummings, who was still in grade school when Roseanne originally bowed. "And they were like, 'Yeah, but that's not how people in this town at this age in this income bracket talk.' And I learned, it's not about what we would say, it's about what they would say."
Set to return for season 11 — which will bow in the fall and be back for 13 episodes — are Wanda Sykes and Norm MacDonald, among other writers. Helford also noted that the multicamera comedy would be bringing in new voices to expand the inclusivity of the room. Joining the writing staff are queer author, writer and comedian Ali Liebegott (Amazon's Transparent); Emily Wilson (AP Bio); comedian Jena Friedman — who has written for The Daily Show With Jon Stewart and Late Show With David Letterman and whose stand-up set on Conan impressed star Roseanne Barr; and Ted Jessup (Family Guy). Dave Caplan (who worked with Helford on Anger Management and The Drew Carey Show) and Bruce Rasmussen (Claws, The Middle, The Drew Carey Show) have also been promoted to exec producer. Barr, as she did during the original run, serves as head writer. (See a full list of the room, below.)
"We have a lot of new voices, younger voices, which I think is important on the show," Helford said. "I'll be showrunning next season. We run a democratic room, almost nobody has a stronger voice than anybody else; everybody's input is there. I'm excited because there are a lot of new voices and because I believe we've got the best of the voices who have been part of it continuing."
Rasmussen penned the premiere episode — which featured Roseanne Connor's support of Trump — as well as Tuesday's season finale. Helford penned episode five (which featured Johnny Galecki's return). Caplan penned episodes six and seven. (Cummings, for her part, is not credited as having written any of the nine episodes in the revival.)
It's not uncommon for writers rooms to shake things up between seasons, especially for short-run series like Roseanne's initial eight-episode order, as in a Peak TV universe approaching 500 scripted originals there's considerably more opportunity to move from show to show. For her part, Cummings recently wrote and co-starred in feature The Female Brain, which served as her directorial debut. In an interview with THR to support the film, the showrunner behind Whitney and Are You There, Chelsea?, said she was most comfortable performing stand-up.
"Stand-up. It's the only place I'm comfortable. In this business, it's a lot of make-believe and pretending and fake on-camera handoffs, and you're in the bullshit meetings and you're just like, 'Great, let's have a drink.' We're never talking again. And onstage, the truth is so valued that it's where I oxygenate and it's where you're able to go validate your reality," Cummings said.
Here's the full list of the room:
The Roseanne season finale airs Tuesday on ABC. Bookmark THR.com/Roseanne for full coverage, including more from Helford.
May 18, 12:17 p.m Updated to include Cummings' response.