After 20 years off the air, the return of the show has exceeded all expectations – especially after intense controversy over the fact that Roseanne’s character is a vocal supporter of Donald Trump.
The controversy appears to have deeply rattled some cast members, with openly gay Sara Gilbert, who plays daughter Darlene, said to be 'nervous' about being incorrectly associated with Trump. She somewhat defensively told Andy Cohen, ‘The Conners aren’t Trump supporters. Roseanne’s character is a Trump supporter — she’s the only one that supports - and we never say his name, actually, in the show.’
Despite many high profile anti-Trump activists taking to Twitter to announce they were boycotting the program, that didn’t seem to damage ratings at all, with the first episodes achieving a massive 7.3 rating among adults aged 18-49 – many of whom weren’t even born when the show first aired - and 6.6 million people watching since premiere night, via streaming services.
But now Roseanne is under intense scrutiny, with the Hollywood Reporter noting, ‘Tuesday's second night, its third of nine scheduled episodes overall, is under enormous pressure to retain a good portion of its record haul.’
Not helping to keep things calm on set has been Sandra Bernhard, who played Nancy on the original show and has already pre-recorded one episode for the reunion season. She has gone much further than Sara Gilbert by openly attacking Trump-supporting women, without specifically naming her boss, Roseanne. In a no-holds-barred tirade, she slammed Trump women as being jealous of Hillary Clinton's career success, and accused them of being 'under the thumb of their husbands.'
'A lot of women have compromised, given in, raised their kids and not had the luxury of being able to think for themselves,' she raged. 'And when you sacrifice that in your life and say I don't think I'm going to lean on somebody else financially that means you've got to get up every day and go work.'
Roseanne has remained notably silent on the matter, and it remains to be seen if Bernhard gets a second spot on the show.
The show’s immense success has only intensified controversy surrounding Roseanne’s political beliefs, with new scrutiny on her past tweets, which have appeared to support a number of bizarre political conspiracy theories, including PizzaGate. Also coming back into circulation has been a highly controversial old photo shoot Roseanne did for a Jewish satirical magazine, in which she dressed as Adolf Hitler, and is pictured removing singed gingerbread people from an oven.
Roseanne has seemed to retreat from posting about some of her favourite political topics on Twitter amid the reignited firestorm, complaining of feeling ‘bullied’ online. She has also appeared to have gone on a blocking spree, locking out numerous critics on Twitter who she feels have crossed the line with their observations and character assessments.
Adding to the drama: Roseanne's ex-husband Tom Arnold has also got stuck into her online, accusing her of being 'cruel'. Roseanne's daughter Jenny Pentland then stepped up with allegations of her own about Arnold's supposed behaviour during his marriage to her mother - reigniting one of the ugliest and most stressful Hollywood family feuds of the past.
Costar John Goodman is now also under the spotlight, with the actor appearing rattled and somewhat stunned when he was ambushed by TMZ after leaving a domestic flight in the US. With the press excited over the massive ratings announcement, it seemed that John was not ready for the level of interest his renewed fame would bring.
He spoke this week to US Good Housekeeping about how his first run of fame on the show affected him.
‘At first it was exciting,’ he told the publication. ‘Then it got frightening when I lost my anonymity.
‘After nine years — eight years, I wanted to leave the show,’ he said. ‘I handled it like I did everything else, by sitting on a bar stool. And that made it worse.’
His battle with the bottle began to affect the show, he admits, and he knew he was in trouble when he missed a rehearsal.
‘I was shaking, I was still drinking, but I was still shaking,’ he said. ‘I had the clarity of thought that I needed to be hospitalised.’
With John now sober ten years, fans will be hoping that he – and the rest of the stars - have the tools to deal with the extreme level of fame the show’s renewed mega-success will bring.