How America has changed since ‘Roseanne’ premiered in 1988

  • Written by MarketWatch
  • Published in Economics

Roseanne Barr’s return to the top of the ratings was a familiar feeling for the star. But it was also shockingly brief. America in 2018, it turns out, is a very different place to America in 1988. In some ways, at least. In other ways, not much has changed for many blue-collar families, many of whom have been described as President Trump as the “forgotten people.”

The 10th season of “Roseanne” will be its last following Barr’s racist comment[1] on Twitter TWTR, +0.75%[2]  directed at Valerie Jarrett, former senior adviser to Barack Obama. The show-ending controversy in some ways highlights how much has changed — about America and Barr herself alike — since the sitcom first hit the airwaves.

The original series centered on a working-class family living in the fictional town of Lanford, Ill. When the show premiered, Roseanne (played by Roseanne Barr) was a mother of three who worked in a plastics factory. Her husband Dan (John Goodman) made his living as a drywall contractor.

Mortgage interest rates are much better for families today, but income and unemployment levels are not so different. And if she were unemployed today, the Roseanne Conner wouldn’t have a factory job to turn back to. In the show, she worked for Uber.

During its run, “Roseanne” focused on the trials and tribulations faced by families in Middle America — it wasn’t uncommon for episodes to center on having the electricity cut[3] or scrimping to pay a child’s college tuition. “Here was a post-Reaganite economic critique with belly laughs — trickle-down sitcommery,” Ken Tucker, then a television critic for the magazine Entertainment Weekly, wrote in a review [4]of the show’s seventh season.

Three decades after the seminal sitcom, “Roseanne,” first appeared on ABC DIS, +0.38%[5]  on Oct. 18, 1988 and became a voice of working-class Americans for a generation, it returned[6] to become the No. 1 show on ABC. The March 27 season premiere was a hit, with 18.2 million viewers tuning in[7], and the revival’s full run got such good ratings ABC planned a second season[8].

There is a line — and Roseanne Barr crossed it Tuesday. The network withdrew support for the star with ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey calling her tweet[9] ”abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent” with ABC’s values.

That second season will never happen now, leaving the original cast — Barr, Goodman, Sara Gilbert (Darlene), Michael Fishman (D.J.), Lecy Goranson (Becky) and Laurie Metcalf (Jackie) —...

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