'Roseanne' Spinoff Inches Closer to Reality at ABC

Sources say a formal announcement could come this week.
Adam Rose/ABC
Lecy Goranson (left) and Sara Gilbert on 'Roseanne'

Less than a week after its stunning decision to cancel Roseanne, ABC is inching closer to a spinoff of TV's No. 1 series.

Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the network is knee-deep in conversations with executive producers including Tom Werner for a new incarnation of the multicamera comedy. Werner's Carsey-Werner banner produced the original series and its revived 10th season, with the veteran executive said to be highly engaged in finding a way to continue the franchise with stars Sara Gilbert (who plays Darlene), John Goodman (Dan) and Laurie Metcalf (Jackie). Sources note that it's likely the entire cast — sans star Roseanne Barr — and creative team, including showrunner Bruce Helford and the same writing staff, and crew would return for whatever the new incarnation is. Multiple ideas are being discussed, including one focused on Darlene, as Gilbert was the driving force behind the ABC revival. 

ABC declined comment.

ABC on May 29 canceled Roseanne after Barr's racist tweet directed at Valerie Jarrett, 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.)

On Friday, ABC scheduled a meeting with producers to discuss potential ways to continue the show. Those talks are said to have heated up over the weekend, with Werner highly engaged in finding a way to keep the series going. An announcement could come as soon as this week.

One point of contention is to find a way to reinvent Roseanne such that Barr's financial involvement is limited — which is said to be a top demand for ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey. But 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, Metcalf and Goodman still expect to be paid for the since-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 Helford, will be compensated.

"Nobody really knows yet what kind of compensation they're going to get," writer and exec producer Dave Caplan told THR hours after the cancellation 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 axing Roseanne, which was due to return in the fall and open the network's Tuesday lineup. ABC 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. Also unclear is if any potential Roseanne offshoot would fill ABC's Tuesday 8 p.m. vacancy left by the network's decision to cancel the comedy.

In a memo to staff last 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. A new incarnation of Roseanne would make that a reality as staffing season has already been completed for all the broadcast series and many involved with the production turned down other jobs to stay on Roseanne.

TMZ first reported the news.