ABC's sitcom Roseanne has enjoyed a long legacy of success. The show was met with record ratings with its first season back in 1988, drawing high praise from television critics and viewers at home alike.
The series following the ordinary working-class family of protagonist Roseanne Conner quickly became one of America's most beloved series, running for nine seasons until 1997.
Fans across the country rejoiced when ABC revived the sitcom for a tenth season to air in 2018. Just like its original run back in the '80s, Roseanne saw immediate success and attracted huge ratings with its premiere.
However, the cherished American sitcom has a dark and complicated history. Series creator Roseanne Barr herself has admitted that the show has its fair share of behind-the-scenes drama and controversy.
Roseanne Barr has made headlines plenty of times lately due to her vocal support of the President, but her ABC series has drawn a lot of negative attention even before Trump was elected.
This list has compiled all of the biggest secrets lying behind the scenes of ABC's Roseanne, ranging all the way from blow out arguments on set to writer drama to Twitter controversies.
With that said, here are the 18 Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Only True Fans Know About Roseanne.
18 ABC’s Politically Motivated Renewal
Today is the age of remakes, renewals, and revivals. From Twin Peaks: The Return to Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, old TV shows routinely come back with new and improved seasons.
Considering this trend, ABC’s decision to revive Roseanne with a 10th season might not have been a big shock to some.
What might be more surprising is ABC’s political motivation for renewing the hit series. Apparently ABC execs met immediately after Trump’s election as President.
The execs met to discuss how they could spin the country’s political climate to their advantage.
Their decision? Renew Roseanne, the proverbial American sitcom, to unite audiences with comedy and reflect the lifestyle of the country’s working class through its characters.
Their strategy seems to have paid off. The revival of Roseanne continues to hit huge ratings each week, and many have praised the series for providing the working class a voice on television.
17 Some Have Decided to Boycott the Show
Roseanne might be one of television’s highest rated series airing right now, but not everybody is tuning in to watch the Conner family every week.
ABC producers have repeatedly stressed that Roseanne is not a political show. However, the lead actress and show creator Roseanne Barr has been particularly vocal about her conservative politics since Trump was elected.
The issue has even caused some Americans to go so far as to boycott her show in protest.
Hashtags like #BoycottRoseanne and #BoycottRoseanneAdvertisers have trended on Twitter as Americans who lean left raised their voices against Roseanne online.
However, considering the show’s consistently high ratings, these protests do not seem to be making a dent in Roseanne’s success. In fact, ABC has already renewed Roseanne for a second season.
16 The Argument Over Creative Rights
One of the deepest and longest lasting arguments that has existed behind the scenes of Roseanne is the argument over creative rights between Roseanne Barr and producer Matt Williams.
Roseanne Barr has always seen herself as the sole creator since the scripts drew heavily from her real life experiences.
Controversy sprung during a cast viewing party when the first episode aired in 1988 and the “created by” credits were given only to producer Matt Williams.
Barr screamed at Williams in front of the entire cast party. She felt betrayed, arguing that Williams stole from her real life stories while taking all of the credit. She called the move discriminatory and bigoted.
Meanwhile, Williams put down Barr’s accusations as completely false. The producer argued that The Writers Guild of America determines the credits, and that he had nothing to do with it.
It’s a disagreement that the two still have to this day.
15 Calling the Writers by Number, not Name
Roseanne Barr found herself very attached to her sitcom and the storylines due to their autobiographical nature. As a result, she has said that she was hugely controlling in the writer’s room.
Barr would often rewrite entire storylines after each episode’s read-through, trashing the scripts that her writers prepared for her. This caused huge amounts of tension in the writing room, with many on the writing staff shaken or angry over their ignored work.
However, Barr didn’t care. In fact, she thought her writers were far too “egocentric” and “infantile.”
In response, Barr made the writers on Roseanne wear shirts with numbers on them and would only call them by their number, not their name.
Some writers have said that they still remember their numbers, and some have even kept the shirts.
14 Roseanne Barr and George Clooney Destroyed ABC’s Cake
One of the more bizarre and amusing behind-the-scenes dramas that occurred backstage of ABC’s Roseanne involved Roseanne Barr, George Clooney, and a chocolate cake.
When Roseanne debuted on ABC to record-breaking ratings, the cable network thought it was cause for celebration. To congratulate Roseanne Barr, ABC sent their lead a chocolate cake in the size of the number 1.
However, their celebratory gesture wasn’t exactly taken well by the show’s star.
Barr was offended by the cake, thinking the channel was mocking her weight. It was George Clooney, who played Jackie’s love interest Booker on the series, who helped Barr take care of the offensive chocolate gift.
Clooney and Barr took a bat to the cake and demolished it, taking a picture of the destroyed gift and sending it to ABC afterwards so the network knew exactly what Roseanne thought of it.
13 Little Rosey’s Cancellation Controversy
Little Rosey was a Saturday morning cartoon that aired on ABC and followed the childhood hijinks of an 8 year-old Roseanne. It never quite hit off, and the series was quietly cancelled after only one season.
However, Roseanne Barr chalks the cancellation up to something other than mediocre ratings.
Roseanne’s popularity caused Barr to be invited to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at the Reds-Padres game in the summer of 1990. However, the comedian didn’t tell anybody that she couldn’t sing.
Instead, she went on the field and belted out the national anthem off-key. It caused a scandal, offending many across the country.
Barr claimed that she even received threats in the days after. To make matters worse, ABC cancelled Little Rosey shortly after the singing stunt.
To this day, Barr claims that the vicious backlash that came from her botched national anthem rendition caused the cancellation.
12 ABC’s Lawyers Were Once Called to Set
Among the biggest blow out arguments to happen on set of Roseanne occurred over one measly line in the script.
Both Barr and John Goodman saw the line as offensive and derogatory.
Barr decided that she would not be saying the line. However, this did not go over well with producers.
An argument broke out, and when the conversation grew heated, ABC’s lawyers were brought to the set. They made Roseanne say the line while filming, but at the end of the day things landed on Barr’s side.
ABC was irritated that producers wasted so much time and money over one line, and the scene was ultimately changed to Barr’s liking.
11 When Roseanne Took a Jab At ABC’s Other Popular Sitcoms
It appears as though ABC’s revival of Roseanne can't go one day without inspiring some kind of controversy.
In the revival’s third episode, writers decided to take a jab at some of the other popular sitcoms on air. The issue was that those sitcoms involved people of color, and the joke was all about their ethnicities.
The episode had Dan say, “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families.” Roseanne replied, “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”
Many found the quick exchange offensive in how it reduced the characters on the sitcoms down to their race and dismissed the content of the shows entirely.
Roseanne co-showrunner Bruce Helford tried to defend the joke, but Roseanne has been unable to shrug off the controversy that the line inspired, with many continuing to critique the series.
10 The Firing List
Roseanne Barr’s experience with filming season one of her ABC sitcom was one of anger and frustration. Some people might have walked away from the project or held their complaints in, but that wasn’t really Barr’s style.
Instead, the show’s lead made her thoughts on her show’s behind-the-scenes politics loud and clear.
Barr decided to write up a list of people she would fire once the show became successful enough where she had more power and say in Roseanne’s production. Not only that, but she also posted it publicly outside of her dressing room door for all to see.
Most didn’t take it too seriously, but the joke was on them: Roseanne sky-rocketed in popularity, and Barr was soon given the power behind-the-scenes that she had always dreamed of.
The writing staff suffered huge cuts once Roseanne took control.
9 Roseanne’s Nervous Breakdowns
The production of season 1 took an enormous toll on Roseanne Barr. Barr was a comic taken straight off of the stage when ABC gave her the series deal, meaning she wasn’t accustomed to the realities and politics of television production.
Barr has admitted that it was a huge learning curve for her. The intimidating producers, stressful production schedule, and the responsibility of being a lead actor in one’s own television show put a type of pressure on Barr that she had never experienced before.
Unfortunately, the actress and comedian suffered routine nervous breakdowns as a result of these huge pressures. In interviews today, Barr describes the set of Roseanne as a “truly hostile environment.”
To cope, Barr prayed, listened to motivational music, and read books like The Art of War to keep her dedicated to the series and convince herself to not give up.
8 Roseanne Forced a Producer Out
The drama behind making season 1 of Roseanne was so intense that everybody knew that by the end of the season, somebody was going to be fired. The only question that remained was: was it going to be producer and co-creator Matt Williams, or Roseanne herself?
Today, Barr claims that the network was seriously considering giving her the boot, with people on set keeping a list of the "offensive things" she had done so that they could fire her.
However, it ended up going the other way. Roseanne stood up for herself. With the support of cast-mates like John Goodman, George Clooney, and Laurie Metcalf, Barr was able to issue an ultimatum: Williams had to leave, or she would walk.
ABC told Williams that in order for Roseanne to continue, he would have to leave.
Williams was equally frustrated with the on-set politics of Roseanne and ultimately agreed to go.
7 Tom Arnold Was Only Hired Because Of Roseanne's Authority On Set
Going into season 2, Roseanne Barr had more influence than she held during season 1-- and she wanted to make sure people understood that.
One of the actions she took to exert her newfound powers was to get her new boyfriend, Tom Arnold, a job on the show. The two met doing stand-up comedy in the ‘80s, and Arnold routinely wrote jokes for Roseanne.
Barr insisted Arnold be hired onto the writing staff for season 2. Producers balked at the proposition since Arnold had no idea how to write for television, but Roseanne didn’t care.
One writer, Norma Safford Vela, said that the writing staff thought Arnold was “100% talent free.”
However, Roseanne was in control now, and ABC knew it. Arnold was hired despite the writers’ protests.
6 The Twitter Attack on David Hogg
One of the biggest controversies surrounding the reboot of Roseanne is Barr’s use of Twitter.
Barr has become extremely political lately, voicing her pro-Trump opinions loud and clear over her Twitter account. She drew the most negative attention when she targeted Parkland shooting survivor, David Hogg.
Roseanne replied to a tweeted photo of student David Hogg raising his fist during a March for Our Lives speech with a comment accusing Hogg of doing an offensive salute.
The tweets have since been deleted, with many speculating that ABC forced Barr to take her comments down. However, screenshots were taken and spread throughout the internet, raising huge controversy around Barr and her show.
People took offense over the fact that Barr had drawn comparisons to Hogg and Hitler, and targeted a child who was also a shooting survivor.
Barr was ultimately non-apologetic.
5 “This is not a democracy. It’s a Queendom.”
When Roseanne insisted that her boyfriend Tom Arnold be hired, it did not go over well with the writers. Many considered Arnold to be a disaster in the writer’s room. He had a dangerously large ego, poor ideas, and was generally destructive to the show’s production.
When these complaints were taken to Roseanne, she simply ignored everybody’s thoughts on Arnold.
She even encouraged his bad behavior by acting wild with him in the writer's room. Writers recall how the two would yell and swear in the writer's room to provoke people.
One producer, Jeff Harris, even attempted to fire Tom Arnold. However, Arnold simply went to Roseanne for protection. Barr told Harris, “This is not a democracy. It’s a Queendom.”
Harris had no choice but to keep Arnold on staff.
4 Roseanne’s Runaway Daughter
The troubled production of Roseanne didn’t just have a negative impact on the show’s lead. Barr’s children also felt the consequences of their mom’s new and stressful job in Hollywood, and they began to act out as a result.
Barr has told interviewers that her family suffered as a result of the success of Roseanne. “When you have a huge success, there are aftershocks of it… in your family," she said.
She even told one story where Barr and the cast were in the middle of shooting one of the first episodes of Roseanne when Barr got a call telling her that her daughter had run away.
Barr had to leave the set to help find her daughter, which made a huge impact on the show’s finances and schedule because Barr was required for every scene.
3 John Goodman’s Personal Struggle
While most of the controversy surrounding Roseanne concerned Roseanne Barr herself, John Goodman also encountered some backstage issues while filming the ABC sitcom.
As Roseanne grew more and more popular, its stars felt increased amounts of pressure. It pushed some cast members into some dark places, including Goodman himself.
The actor struggled with alcoholism, even beginning to drink at work as the years went on. “I was ashamed of myself,” Goodman said, “but I couldn’t stop.”
Thankfully, Roseanne was there to help. The actress sat down with Goodman and confronted him about his issue, pleading him to get help.
Goodman is now many years sober, and the actor credits Barr’s intervention as one of the helping forces that aided him in his recovery.
2 Roseanne vs. Seinfeld
Not every controversial tale behind the scenes of Roseanne is just about Barr and her cast-mates. One wild story involves the cast of Roseanne and the cast of another iconic American sitcom, Seinfeld.
Roseanne filmed on the same lot as Seinfeld, and lead actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus once parked in Tom Arnold’s parking space by mistake.
It was a small slip-up, but Arnold took offense.
He wrote a nasty note and left it on Louis-Dreyfus’s windshield. When the actress found out, the entire cast of Seinfeld came to her defense. Louis-Dreyfus and Jason Alexander even had a standoff with Arnold where they confronted the writer for leaving the immature note.
Barr took her boyfriend’s side. She even wrote another offensive note and left it on the Seinfeld star’s windshield after the argument.
Even today, it's still a touchy topic between the Seinfeld and Roseanne casts.
1 ABC’s Censorship of Joss Whedon
Few fans of Roseanne know that Joss Whedon started his writing career on the ABC sitcom. Even fewer know the trouble he ran into with one of his early scripts.
The young Whedon admired Roseanne’s honesty, feminism, and political commentary, and one of the first scripts he wrote for the series involved Roseanne’s sister Jackie getting an abortion.
ABC was not pleased. They demanded that the storyline be rewritten, even after Whedon protested that the storyline would fit well with Roseanne’s amusing takes on tough and realistic subject matter.
The network didn’t care, though. Instead, they changed the storyline so that Jackie would have a miscarriage, not an abortion.
Whedon said it was an important lesson in writing, stating that it was “my dream and my first heartbreak.”
Which of these secrets about Roseanne surprised you the most? Do you know of any others? Let us know in the comments!