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Roseanne Pulls Back the Wizard's Curtain on Network TV and it Ain't Pretty

Women and Hollywood By Melissa Silverstein | Women and Hollywood May 17, 2011 at 4:59AM

I have always loved Roseanne. I love her because she makes people uncomfortable (even me at times.) I love that she says what she believes, damn the consequences. Now, she can say whatever she wants because she doesn't work on a network TV anymore, but she still has major guts for the piece she pens in the current issue of NY Magazine that blows open behind the scenes TV behavior that seems more the norm than any of us TV watchers could ever believe.
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I have always loved Roseanne. I love her because she makes people uncomfortable (even me at times.) I love that she says what she believes, damn the consequences. Now, she can say whatever she wants because she doesn't work on a network TV anymore, but she still has major guts for the piece she pens in the current issue of NY Magazine that blows open behind the scenes TV behavior that seems more the norm than any of us TV watchers could ever believe.

Roseanne the TV show was unique. She writes in the piece that we will never see a show like that again and I agree with her. Now our working class heroines on TV are way different more like Patricia Heaton in The Middle or Martha Plimpton on Raising Hope which both owe their existence to Roseanne.

Roseanne uses Charlie Sheen's melt down and flame out to recall her early days on her show which due to the crap that goes on in the TV business, she wound up getting no credit for creating. She does in this article what most people who still want a job in the business don't, and won't do -- name names.

Most of her bile is reserved for Matt Williams (who seems to like to say he creates show by comedians. He also got credit for creating Home Improvement) and how the two of them were at each others throats for the 13 episodes he was around.

But she also talks about the women who enable these men to do what they do against other women. (We have all met them.) This scenario occurred when there was difference in opinion on what Roseanne should wear onscreen and she found out a female producer was the one giving the orders.

This producer was a woman, a type I became acquainted with at the beginning of my stand-up career in Denver. I cared little for them: blondes in high heels who were so anxious to reach the professional level of the men they worshipped, fawned over, served, built up, and flattered that they would stab other women in the back. They are the ultimate weapon used by men against actual feminists who try to work in media, and they are never friends to other women, you can trust me on that.


I find this point interesting because it goes right to the heart of the issue of how women do or don't support each other. There are women who will support and hire women. They will look for those opportunities if they can. Then there are the women who compete with other women who believe that there can only be one woman in a position or a company because they are afraid of other women. Like Roseanne, I stay the hell away from these women. You know in five seconds what team a woman is playing on.

Roseanne also gives a great description of the writers room:

The “big house” was what I called the writers’ building. I rarely went there, since it was disgusting. Within minutes, one of the writers would crack a stinky-pussy joke that would make me want to murder them. Male writers have zero interest in being nice to women, including their own assistants, few of whom are ever promoted to the rank of “writer,” even though they do all the work while the guys sit on their asses taking the credit. Those are the women who deserve the utmost respect.)

Please tell me how these environments still exist in 2011, if TV producers today are afraid of being sued for creating a "hostile work environment." The problem with this is that female writers are not comfortable making legal cases. They usually leave the show because they want to write again, and I would imagine have ideas for their own shows. Every female writer I've talked with who usually is still a minority in the writer's room could file a hostile work environment suit. But none do.

The last point is how women are valued compared with men. Here's her description of what happened when her show went to number 1.

When the show went to No. 1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate “1” to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy—or maybe they thought I hadn’t heard (along with the world) that male stars with No. 1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and George Clooney [who played Roseanne Conner’s boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat. I sent that to ABC.

I seriously have not laughed this hard in a long time. Roseanne knows she's a bit crazy, but I will take her crazy over Charlie Sheen's crazy any day of the week.
And I Should Know (NY Magazine)

This article is related to: Roseanne


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