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'Roseanne' is done, but the Conner family may not be

ABC has pulled the plug on "Roseanne," but the family at the show's center may have more life ahead.The ...

Posted: May 31, 2018 5:13 AM
Updated: May 31, 2018 5:13 AM

ABC has pulled the plug on "Roseanne," but the family at the show's center may have more life ahead.

The network canceled "Roseanne" on Tuesday after Barr went on a Twitter rant in which she made racist comments.

Barr later apologized and indicated she believes her behavior was influenced by the sleep aid Ambien.

News of the show's cancellation came on the same day "Roseanne" writers were returning to work to begin crafting the next season.

For now, some 200-plus "Roseanne" staffers are set to lose their jobs.

But reviving the revival -- with cast members like John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf -- would help some cast and crew avoid the unemployment ranks.

Since news of the show's cancellation, "Roseanne" fans have circulated mock posters featuring Metcalf's Jackie at the forefront. On his ABC late-night program, Jimmy Kimmel imagined a version of the series simply titled, "Dan."

These ideas are not entirely far-fetched. Plus, "Roseanne" has killed off cast members before -- Goodman's Dan Conner was revealed to have died in the original series finale -- so why not kill off the matriarch?

When asked about this, a well-placed source left the door wide open. It is "too soon" to talk about resuscitating the family sitcom, the source told CNN, but "there will be a time to sit down and look at all the options."

Meaning, the Conner family could be back on TV -- even if Barr won't be.

Legally, much of the decision-making power is in the hands of the show's current production company, Carsey-Werner. In a typical broadcast television deal, a production company will retain ownership of a TV show and license it to the network, in this case ABC.

Under this model, Carsey-Werner -- best known for producing a string of television hits like "The Cosby Show," "3rd Rock From the Sun," and "Grace Under Fire" -- would contractually have the most say in a future for the Conner family.

"In terms of, can they now turn around and sell it to someone else, can they do that without Roseanne [Barr] in it, well, if the contracts gave them all that power, yeah," Corey Field, an adjunct Professor at USC Gould School of Law and author of "Entertainment Law Fundamentals and Practice," told CNN.

On social media, some dejected "Roseanne" viewers have called on Fox and other content providers to pick up the series. At this point, however, it seems clear that any future iteration wouldn't include its namesake, and talk of moving to another network is premature.

Different sources had different assessments of how likely or unlikely a re-reboot is.

One source with knowledge of ABC's current thinking told CNN there was "zero" chance a version of "Roseanne" would be resurrected at the network.

Another source sounded more open to the possibility.

In an email to staff Wednesday, Disney-ABC TV Group chief Ben Sherwood praised the show's team and wished them well. He said he hoped "to find another way to work together down the road."

But for now, the staffers are out of work.

After "Roseanne's" cancellation, executive producer Tom Werner said in a statement, "I support ABC's decision to cancel the show in the wake of Roseanne Barr's most recent reprehensible tweets."

In an email to staff Wednesday, Disney-ABC TV Group chief Ben Sherwood praised the show's team and said he hoped "to find another way to work together down the road."

After "Roseanne's" cancellation, executive producer Tom Werner said in a statement, "I support ABC's decision to cancel the show in the wake of Roseanne Barr's most recent reprehensible tweets."

"Our goal was to promote constructive discussion about the issues that divide us. It represented the work of hundreds of talented people," he said. "I hope the good work done is not totally eclipsed by these abhorrent and offensive comments, and that Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs."

Barr herself seems to have made peace with the fact that her return to TV is an unlikely scenario.

"I'm not getting my job back, genius," she told one commenter on Twitter.

David E. Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, agrees.

"The risks are far too great," Johnson told CNN. "Her comments, especially in this politically charged environment, make the cost of employing her impossible for any network. The damage that would be done to any network by even thinking about bringing her on would be immeasurable and would generate a backlash unlike anything we have seen."

Should "Roseanne" or the Conner family live on in some form -- whether at ABC or another network -- Barr will join the ranks of an elite club of TV stars who've been fired from shows on which they starred, only to have it continue without them.

Charlie Sheen is in some ways the closest comparison because though his name was not part of the show's title, he played one of the titular characters on CBS's "Two and a Half Men."

Depending on her deal, however, Barr could stand to make money from a future version of the series, Field said.

Barr is often credited as a co-creator; though, Werner has said the concept was formed before Barr originally boarded the project.

"I would assume given how successful she was -- at least in the first iteration of the show, Season 1 -- that she probably had a pretty great deal," Field said.

CNN's Megan Thomas, Brian Lowry, Jamie Gangel contributed to this report.

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