Leading up to my ten year anniversary I'm re-posting a piece from one of the years. Actually, today I'm going to post two. Realizing I might be poking a hornet's nest, nevertheless I'm going to reprise my exchange with Roseanne. I do so because it started a blog war that caught the attention of the national media. Before long, there were newspaper articles and TV interviews.
This is part one -- my initial reaction to her New York Magazine article. She then ripped the shit out of me in her blog. What follows later today is my response to that so you get the whole story. Hopefully, this won't stir up the controversy again because there is nothing new to add, but in terms of any impact my blog has had, this episode certainly put me on the map.
It first appeared on May 23, 2011.
NOTE: On Monday I will report on seeing last night's UNDATEABLE LIVE broadcasts. So if you haven't seen it yet and have DVR'd, you have until Monday. Now to today's hornet's nest:
But first, some disclaimers:
I greatly admire her show, ROSEANNE. It truly was one of the few groundbreaking sitcoms.
And much of the credit goes to her. She was the creative voice.
I have never personally worked for or with her. So my observations come from an outsider, albeit an outsider who has been in the trenches for over thirty years.
I've met Matt Williams only a couple of times, but only briefly. So it's not like we're BFF.
What else? Let’s see. She hasn’t sold guns to terrorists. To my knowledge.
In the article, she attempts to portray herself as a victim and a martyr. She is neither. She is an enormously talented woman who has enough psychological problems to keep the industry in business for the next two hundred years. I’ve always believed that fame and money and power just make you more of what you really are. And if that’s the case, than Roseanne is a monster. No amount of spinning on her part is going to change that. No amount of “woe is me”, “no one understands me”, “I’m the only one who cares” laments are going to change the fact that she treated people like shit. Routinely. Constantly. Knowingly.
For that alone, I have no use for her.
Let’s break down the article, shall we? She is mortally wounded upon learning that she didn’t get creator credit for her series. Okay, there may be some injustice there, but that’s more the fault of her handlers, not the writer, Matt Williams. And when she claims he stole her life, uh, that’s not entirely true. If he had taken all her ideas, written a script, told the press it was his life story, and then hired Camryn Manheim to star in the show, then yes, I’d say we have a major case of identity theft. But everyone KNOWS the show is based on Roseanne and her material. Matt even said as much in articles back then. The name of the fucking show is ROSEANNE for Chrissakes! All she really is being gypped out of is royalties. And I think she more than made up for that in her salary and ownership position.
And it takes skill and experience to turn fragments of a stand-up routine into a cohesive television series. Matt Williams does deserve some recognition. He was not just the proverbial mouse on the elephant.
Yet, it’s this betrayal that she uses to justify making everyone’s life a living hell. The tone of a set is established by its star. When the star begins reading THE ART OF WAR and keeps a list of who she’ll fire, she’s in a very real sense creating a poisonous atmosphere.
Her contempt for writers is so deep-seated that she can’t even hide it in the article. This what she says, and I quote:
Oh really? As a male writer I find that insulting. As a male I find that insulting. And so misguided and ridiculous that it doesn’t even warrant a rebuttal.
I love how she portrays Matt Williams as such an ogre and mentions that he went on to create HOME IMPROVEMENT for Tim Allen and neglects to add that Tim Allen never had the same issues with Matt that she did. Matt & Tim seemed to get along just peachy. Later she references Chuck Lorre and how he has since hired most of her crew and supporting actors. If he were so terrible why would they agree to work for him again? He’s not the only producer in town (although it seems like it). How many of those same crew people would ever consent to work for her again? Three? Maybe. If their kids were being held for ransom. And even then, I don't know that all three would comply.
Roseanne makes a big issue over a particular punch line that she found offensive. And according to her, Matt dug in and there was an ugly standoff. I agree with her that the line was bad and needed to be replaced. But I guarantee that if she weren’t so relentlessly combative, the showrunner (ANY showrunner) would have been happy to find another joke. In this case, it wasn’t just a joke, it was the “line” in the sand. I’ve had actors object to lines and there’s never been a problem. I’m never going to force an actor to say something he hates. But I also expect the actor to present his objection is a respectful way. Things on that set would have been different if the book Roseanne read was THE ART OF COLLABORATION.
So she fires everyone and we’re supposed to cheer. The next wave of writers was (as she says) “old guys”. One of them, Jeff Harris, took out a full-page ad in the trades when he decided to quit – an open letter to the cast and crew that said, "My wife and I have decided to share a vacation in the peace and quiet of Beirut.”
Next she hires comics and assistants to write her show. Translation: people she can control. So began the revolving door. And how about this for humiliation? Since there was so much turnover in the writing staff and she had no desire to learn anyone's names, she made them each wear numbers around their necks during runthroughs.
She concludes the article by saying she’s not bitter. (Oh really???) She takes comfort in being such a champion for integrity, dignity, and women’s rights. Sure wish I had a picture of her women writers during runthrough wearing numbers around their necks.