The Roseanne Spin-off and Its Megyn Kelly Dilemma
by Will Everage
Megyn Kelly, the ex-Fox News employee voted Least Likely To Get A Bill O'Reilly Christmas Card (“O’Reilly’s suggestion that no one ever complained about his behavior [sexual harassment] is false. I know because I complained,” Kelly said, on camera, about her former colleague), signed a huge $69 million contract when she abandoned the conservative network for NBC, per Business Insider. The stakes were high for both Kelly and NBC. The Today Show, once the undisputed king of network morning shows, was now tied in the critical daytime ratings war with ABC's own candy-coated morning show, Good Morning America. And for Kelly, this presented an opportunity to further cement her own brand now that she finally untethered herself from the cable news giant.
And yet, her start at the network was less than stellar. Before she launched her new stint anchoring the third hour of The Today Show, Kelly was given a Sunday night show to compete against fabled 60 Minutes. Most people don’t remember Megyn Kelly’s Sunday night show—because most people didn’t watch. Her ratings plummeted, and NBC preemptively pulled the plug.
Once she moved to the third hour of The Today Show, things didn’t improve. It didn’t help that she angered members of NBC’s own hit show Will and Grace when she seemed to insult a gay member of her audience or when she got into a public spat with Jane Fonda over, of all things, plastic surgery.
Yet, I believe her problems were already in place well before she even arrived at NBC; they started during the first Republican debate hosted by Fox News. That was when Kelly truly exploded into the public eye by pressing then-candidate Donald Trump on his prior statements regarding women. For many, it was an obvious question, but to most Fox News loyalists it was seen as an act of betrayal. Talk radio and right-leaning websites excoriated Kelly for her questioning. Then Trump got in the mix with his “blood leaking out of wherever” comment, and anyone looking in from the outside knew Kelly’s days at Fox News were numbered.
But the problem Kelly faced, and still faces to this day, was that while many Republicans now viewed Kelly as persona non grata, many on the left also dislike Kelly from her days at Fox News, where she has done some controversial things, like during the strange segment on her show when she argued the race of Santa Claus or her obsession with the New Black Panther Party. Now neither side really trusts her anymore.
"Most people don’t remember Megyn Kelly’s Sunday night show—because most people didn’t watch. Her ratings plummeted, and NBC preemptively pulled the plug."
I bring this up because the cast members of the newly announced spinoff to the once-successful-but-now-defunct Roseanne reboot find themselves in a similar situation.
When, on an early Tuesday morning, Roseanne, star of the hit show, decided to go on a decidedly-Trumpian Twitter-rant where she compared an African-American former-Obama staffer to an ape, she set off a massive chain-reaction and PR nightmare for her network, ABC. The show was canceled—despite its ratings success—by the end of the day, and anyone and everyone associated with the new show—network executives, producers and writers, cast members—all reached out to condemn Roseanne’s tweet. The only ones who still supported her, however, were many of the show’s fans, who felt that Roseanne had been railroaded off her own show in yet another example of liberal/snowflake/PC bullshit. Many of them now parroted Roseanne’s shifting excuses for her early morning tirade: it was just a bad joke; it was because of her sleep medication; she thought Valerie Jarrett was Jewish. And, of course, there were those who saw nothing at all wrong with her comments to begin with.
So now when the new show begins its run without its former star will the fans come back? I kinda doubt it. I think most of them will view the remaining co-stars, who had spoken so harshly of Roseanne, in roughly the same light they now view Meygn Kelly. As turncoats. But I’m also unsure that the spin-off will get more left-leaning viewers, many of whom were upset that Roseanne got a show in the first place. Will they be willing to forgive ABC and reward them for their turning a blind eye to Roseanne’s past behavior? It wasn’t, after all, the first time she compared a black person to an ape. So, just who will this new-new show be geared towards? The hurt and angry current fans or the people formerly put-off by the old-new show's right-leaning politics?
This is just another reminder of this country’s current spasm of knee-jerk tribalism. Our deep wounds. Our ever growing mistrust in each other. How does that old children’s song go? The wheels on the bus go round and round…
Will Everage is a current degree candidate at The Mountainview Low Residency MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction.