ABC's Roseanne revival premiere on Tuesday night scored the biggest ratings for a TV sitcom in three years. ABC announced the return of Roseanne last year, with most of the main cast returning from the original series. Airing from 1988 through 1997, Roseanne broke new ground in TV's depiction of working class families and their struggles, becoming a giant in the ratings.
The original series was always topical, and the revival will be no exception. In its premiere episode, the show tackled politics by depicting the battles between Trump voter Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and her embattled Hillary Clinton supporting sister Jackie (Oscar nominee Laurie Metcalf). The show also showed Dan (John Goodman) and Roseanne dealing with the high cost of prescription drugs, while showing daughter Becky (Lecy Goranson) deciding to make cash by acting as a surrogate mother. The debut also dove into the issue of gender non-conformity with its depiction of daughter Darlene's (Sara Gilbert) gender-fluid son Mark (Ames McNamara).
Whether fans will stay around as Roseanne further explores its evolving characters and tricky themes remains to be seen, but at least for one night the show re-affirmed its position as one of TV history's most popular sitcoms. As reported by THR, Roseanne brought in huge ratings in its first airing on ABC in the 8 PM ET time slot. The two-episode debut averaged 18.1 million viewers while scoring a 5.1 rating in the key 18-49 demo to easily dominate the competition. Its nearest competitor in the time slot, NBC's The Voice, scored a meager 1.6 rating.
The 5.1 rating in the key demo is the truly impressive number for Roseanne, as it proves the show does resonate with younger viewers. Network sitcoms like The Big Bang Theory and its spinoff Young Sheldon may draw in large overall viewer counts, but they tend to lag behind cable offerings when it comes to the 18-49 demo. During last year's fall season for instance, Big Bang Theory averaged a 4.2 rating, while Young Sheldon averaged 3.3. Even the highest-rated network drama This Is Us averaged just 4.5. Roseanne's huge numbers have not been seen on the network sitcom side since the heyday of Big Bang Theory three years ago.
Another revival sitcom, Will & Grace, averaged a 3.1 during fall 2017, further proof that audiences have as much appetite for nostalgia as TV execs. Appropriately, several more reboots/revivals have been announced in recent months, including CBS offerings Murphy Brown, Magnum P.I. and Cagney & Lacey. NBC reportedly has interest in reviving The Office too, while Sony is reportedly pursuing a Mad About You revival. If Roseanne's huge numbers continue, expect that list of planned revivals to grow even more. Like it or not, the TV revival trend looks like it's here to stay.