The Morning Jolt

Film & TV

Roseanne — and Roseanne — Was a Gamble from the Start

Actress and reality show personality Roseanne Barr addresses the media during the Lifetime channel portion of the Press Tour for the Television Critics Association in Beverly Hills, California, July 27, 2011. (Gus Ruelas/Reuters)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Why Roseanne Barr should have realized she was skating on thin ice; liberal billionaire Tom Steyer’s comforting delusion; and what you’re missing by not paying attention to the World Cup over in Russia.

Setting a Low Barr

I agree with everything David French says about the high cost of embracing a self-evidently mentally imbalanced person as a de facto spokesman for a movement, and everything Katherine Timpf says about the rights of ABC to fire an employee who is damaging the company. (After all, this isn’t that different from, say, an NFL franchise not wanting to sign a player known for making controversial statements and gestures during the National Anthem.)

As I observed yesterday, it’s less than shocking that a woman who chose to dress up as Hitler and put cookie “Jews” into an oven in a photo shoot to be funny — ha-ha —  would prove to be too controversial for a network television show.

Let’s also note that Roseanne — both the show and the person — was always in a precarious spot at ABC. Yes, the show debuted to monster ratings and mostly kept them during its run, with 10.3 million viewers for its season (and now, presumably series) finale — “still far and away the top show of the night in the demo.”

But executives at ABC and its parent company, the Disney Corporation, never had any interest in being perceived as “the Trump-friendly network” and in fact probably resented that the success of the Roseanne revival was driven, at least in part, by the character’s support for Trump. If Roseanne Barr was rational — and she pretty obviously isn’t — she would be aware that the suits were looking for any excuse they could to cut ties. (By the way, it didn’t matter if the show was way less political than its reputation suggested; that was the big headline coming out of the show’s return.)

Barr may have felt she was irreplaceable, but she really wasn’t. Roseanne got higher ratings and attracted 10 to 18 million viewers, but also cost more than the average television show; John Goodman and Barr were each making reportedly $250,000 per episode. “Kantar Media has estimated the show’s initial run of nine episodes over eight nights netted $45 million in ad revenue.” That’s nice, but for Disney, it’s a drop in the bucket. A generic sitcom with no-name actors will get half the ratings and cost a quarter of the price.

Former President Barack Obama and Michelle are still revered and beloved in most corners of Hollywood; when Barr said one of their best friends, Valerie Jarrett, looks like a character from Planet of the Apes, just what did Barr think was going to happen? Did she think the Obamas and all of their allies were just going to shrug it off, let it pass without response? You might hate the Obamas but give them credit for standing up for one of their own — or for having cultivated a reputation to the point where they may not have even needed to pick up the phone. Everyone at ABC and Disney understood that there would likely be consequences if they tried to give Roseanne a pass.

You think the Disney corporation wants to take any grief for an extra $45 million in ad revenue? You think advertisers would be eager to go back to the show as Barr made herself radioactive?

Are There Millions of Voters Who Will Stay Home without an Impeachment Promise?

A fascinating detail in this interview with Tom Steyer,the liberal billionaire who is self-funding a campaign to promote the impeachment of President Trump as soon as possible:

Steyer and his staff have crunched their own numbers off the nearly 5.4 million people who’ve signed up with his “Need to Impeach” initiative. By their count, there are 10,000 people in each of the 75 most hotly contested House districts who are on his list — enough to swing a close race — and two-thirds of them are sporadic voters. By shooting down every question about impeachment, Steyer says, Pelosi is writing off those voters.

“What we know is there are millions of Americans who don’t vote because they are not hearing the truth,” said Steyer, who starts every interview by drawing a Jerusalem-cross pattern on the back of his hand — it’s the international sign of humility, he said, and a reminder to tell the truth, even if they put you on a cross for it. “They don’t think that the existing political establishment wants to talk about the basic questions of the day.”

I’m not sure I can get my head around the idea of a voter who’s mad enough about Trump to want him impeached, but not mad enough to actually go and vote in November unless the Democrat explicitly promises it. If the Republican candidate wins, the odds of Trump getting impeached are less likely; if the Democrat wins, it is more likely.

Are there millions of Americans who don’t vote because they’re not “hearing the truth”? As of yesterday, there are 2,515 candidates from the Republican or Democratic parties, a third party, or running independently just running for seats in the U.S. House in this cycle. Somebody in that crowd has to be telling “the truth.”

I suspect that most people who are sporadic voters vote as rarely as they do because they don’t feel it’s worth it. (Let’s face it, the process of voting is not an enormously difficult imposition of time or effort. Don’t tell me the lines are too long if you’re camping out Thanksgiving night to be the first one at the Black Friday sales at the malls. As mentioned yesterday, a lot of states now have more or less “Election Month,” not Election Day, with plenty of time for early voting.)

Sporadic voters don’t pay much attention to politics or government and they don’t want to pay attention. They know the election isn’t likely to come down to one vote, and so they don’t believe their vote will make a difference. There’s probably some cynicism at work, too. We’re on, what, the eighth or ninth consecutive “most important election of our lifetimes”? In the past decades, we’ve had Democrats win “most important election of our lifetimes” and Republicans win “most important election of our lifetimes” and for most people, life just plods on, with some good times and some bad times, rarely if ever directly tied to one party having political power.

Steyer’s practicing that common form of political self-delusion, believing that there’s a teeming mass of non-voting people out there who agree with him, and who would come out in droves if someone would just come out and say exactly what Steyer wants them to say.

Then there’s this detail:

As for whether he’s running in 2020, Steyer doesn’t say yes, and he doesn’t say no. Like a lot of people expected to run for president, he said he needs to see how the midterms shake out.

Just what the Democrats need, right? A big-city (San Francisco) billionaire with no experience in elected office who can self-fund a presidential campaign, and who likes making provocative statements that stimulate the party’s id, jumping into a crowded field and ripping all of the elected Democrats who helped “normalize” Trump by not pushing for impeachment as soon as possible. This could make the 2016 Republican presidential primary look like a polite tea party.

Previewing the 2022 World Corruption Games

The World Cup — that’s the big global soccer tournament — starts in a few weeks. Yes, I know the odds are good that you don’t care. You probably don’t care because A) the U.S. team didn’t qualify this year and B) it’s soccer, and you probably prefer to watch games that don’t have so many 0 – 0 ties.

This year the World Cup is being held in Russia. Now, I don’t expect FIFA — the world’s governing body of soccer — or the International Olympic Committee to be leading the fight on human rights. But if they did decide to exercise a bit of their influence, they could probably force a decent amount of changes — just by saying something like, “Any country that wants to host one of our international competitions has to be better than the median in human rights.” A bunch of countries would have to walk the straight and narrow for a while to get that international showcase.

Instead, we’ve got this year’s World Cup in Russia and the next one in Qatar — you know, the super-hot desert country, where the temperatures are so high, they’ll have to play the games in winter — because the selection boards are . . . well, let’s face it, wildly corrupt.

Every Olympics or World Cup there’s some poo-pooing of American sports fans because we don’t pay as much attention to international competitions as other countries. But even HBO’s John Oliver has observed that it’s hard to be a soccer fan with a clear conscience, as FIFA aids, abets, and profits from ludicrous levels of corruption — bribery, ludicrous overspending on little-used stadiums, and appalling exploitation of construction workers in unsafe conditions. And of course, we’re constantly told that hosting these international sporting events will put these unsavory countries on their best behavior . . . and yet things usually turn out otherwise. Russia invaded Crimea three days after the Sochi Olympics ended.

In light of the World Cup and Olympics turning into global festivals of graft and corruption . . . today I chose to preview the 2022 World Corruption Games.

ADDENDAJonah offers a beautiful tribute to his late father-in-law, a classic immigrant success story, and observes, “today the conversation about immigration is so toxic in part because we poisonously disagree about what it means to be an American.”


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