Pride Working on ‘Roseanne,’ but ‘Just Brutal’ Pressure Off the Set

Pride Working on ‘Roseanne,’ but ‘Just Brutal’ Pressure Off the Set

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It was an incredibly exciting time to be a writer on “Roseanne.”

The revived ABC sitcom was the No. 1 new show in the country, delivering an audience that network television had not seen in years. The show was quickly renewed for another season, giving everyone a sense of accomplishment, not to mention job security.

But for all the success, there was also a vague sense of foreboding. The writers’ social media accounts were flooded with negative comments. Articles posted online criticized jokes and plots. Their friends in the liberal enclave of Los Angeles would occasionally tsk-tsk that they worked on the show. And, of course, there was Roseanne Barr, the show’s star and co-creator, and her history of volatile public comments.

“It was hard for us once we started airing and we started to see some of the stuff that came out,” said Bruce Rasmussen, an executive producer of the series. “It was just brutal: ‘How dare they give her a show? How dare they write for her?’

“It was a certain amount of pressure,” he continued. “You’re the No. 1 show, and people are coming after you on the web and you’re getting attacked by 50 percent of the press.”

In the wake of ABC’s cancellation of “Roseanne” on Tuesday, only hours after Ms. Barr posted a racist tweet about Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser to President Barack Obama, those who worked for the network and the show were still trying to come to grips with how everything had collapsed so suddenly.

“In the end, it came down to doing what’s right and upholding our values of inclusion, tolerance and civility,” Ben Sherwood, the head of ABC’s television group, said in an email to employees on Wednesday. He added, “The last 24 hours have also been a powerful reminder of the importance of words in everything we do — online and on the air.”

By late Tuesday, Ms. Barr had returned to Twitter and, over several hours, sent or retweeted more than 100 messages.

In one, she apologized to her crew for costing its members their jobs, and in another she apologized to Ms. Jarrett, blaming the drug Ambien for her racist tweet. But she also responded to a message falsely claiming that the ABC entertainment president Channing Dungey consulted with Michelle Obama about the show’s cancellation. “Is this true?” Ms. Barr asked. She also retweeted a message from President Trump that said the Disney chief executive Robert A. Iger had never apologized to him “for the HORRIBLE statements made and said about me on ABC.”

And on Wednesday afternoon, Ms. Barr hinted that she might not leave ABC quietly. “You guys make me feel like fighting back,” she wrote. “I will examine all of my options carefully and get back to U.”

One of the show’s executive producers, Tom Werner, said in a statement that he hoped “Roseanne seeks the help she so clearly needs.”

Ms. Barr’s often controversial Twitter presence — she is an outspoken supporter of Mr. Trump and has tweeted out messages espousing fringe conspiracy theories — was nothing new to ABC.

The network proudly promoted Ms. Barr as part of a broader strategy to appeal to more of the country after Mr. Trump’s presidential election win.

The show’s rebirth was the brainchild of Sara Gilbert, the actress who plays one of Roseanne Conner’s daughters. Ms. Gilbert and other producers for the show felt that a comedy centered on a working-class family would be perfectly timed to a moment when the country was so divided.

But after the show premiered, there was growing frustration among ABC executives that Ms. Barr’s Twitter controversies continued.

Still, the network desperately needed a hit, perhaps a reason it was willing to let some of Ms. Barr’s more outlandish statements go. “Roseanne,” along with the rookie drama “The Good Doctor,” has helped put the network on better footing, though it will finish the 2017-18 TV season in last place for the third straight year.

Initially, the writers on “Roseanne” were able to work within a bit of a blissful vacuum. The entire season had been written and shot before the premiere episode aired in late March.

Ms. Barr’s on-set presence had also mellowed significantly from what it was during the show’s initial run in the 1990s, when she developed a reputation for being difficult to work with and treating her writers with little respect.

Mr. Rasmussen, who was a supervising producer for one season on the old show before being fired, said there was a sense of purpose this time that the show could speak to a segment of the country that was often overlooked in prime-time TV.

“Everyone trusted each other, and we were all on the same team,” he said.

But by time the show aired, things had changed, and the show had become a lightning rod. Mr. Trump and conservative commentators praised the show for its depiction of a Trump supporter, while some on the left expressed reservations about even watching it.

And then there was the nagging, relentless presence of Ms. Barr’s Twitter feed.

“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” Mr. Rasmussen said of her Twitter account. “She would tweet stuff, then apologize and get off Twitter, and then it would get better. And then it would blow up again. I followed her to just see what was coming. Some of the other writers couldn’t do it, just because they couldn’t handle the stress of it.”

By season’s end, Whitney Cummings, a liberal comedian and the sitcom’s show runner, had left the series. Other writers left, some of them saying that their social media accounts had been overwhelmed by negative comments, Mr. Rasmussen said, adding that there was a 50 percent staff turnover after the first season.

But there was a sense of optimism heading into Tuesday as a group of writers and producers prepared to gather in Studio City, Calif., to discuss the show’s second season, which was slated to start in September. That changed quickly, first with Ms. Barr’s tweet and then with ABC’s speedy announcement that the show was canceled.

A brief and strange run had come to a swift conclusion.

“My friends would say, ‘Oh, my god, you’re the No. 1 show,’ and since they weren’t reading as much press as we were, they would also say, ‘Oh, my god, that must be so exciting,’” Mr. Rasmussen said.

“But there was always the other side of it,” he continued, “which is looking at the critics and the people going after the show and going after you specifically sometimes. It was tough.”

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