To Roseanne or not to Roseanne? That is the question for TV station managers. Pass on the ex-sitcom queen's new talk show and you may lose the next Oprah to your competitor. Buy, and start worrying about whether the volatile comic can keep up the grueling daily pace without an explosion--and whether her acid tongue is really what the hair-curlers-in-the-afternoon crowd wants to hear.

Daily Variety says that station execs are experiencing heart flutters, even as they shell out serious bread for the new talk show, announced last month but not starting 'til fall, 1998. Right off the bat, syndicator King World (which also handles Oprah's show) signed five of the top NBC-owned stations without having to give back a piece of the profit, as is customary in the biz. "She'll get a high (initial) tune-in, and if the show is good, people will stay with her," reasoned one station manager to the trade paper.

In her sitcom days, Roseanne was notorious for keeping her show in constant turmoil, with writers and producers coming and going as her moods shifted. "It's fair for stations to be concerned that the show could blow up," one station-group official says. Her manager, Jeff Wald, counters that "she did 200-plus episodes for nine years--not one came in late, not one came in over-budget."

Roseanne promises to not only cash in on her A-list celebrity connections for the show, but to feature "regular people" and audience participation. She turned to the talk genre after her network home, ABC, and the other major nets, passed on her proposal for a spinoff of Roseanne, which aired its last show in May after nine seasons.

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