ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey addressed the epic rise and tragic fall fo ABC's Roseanne reboot, as well as what fans can expect from upcoming Roseanne Barr-less spinoff series, The Conners.
Roseanne premiered its reboot in spring 2018 to ratings not seen for many years on broadcast television, but was quickly canceled months later — and days after ABC had unveiled its fall schedule with Roseanne as its crown jewel — after Barr posted a racist tweet in May.
"It was actually made very swiftly, and what I'm going to have to say is that it was nice that it was so clear to everyone that there wasn't a lot of debate and discussion about it," Dungey told Deadline during the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday, regarding making the decision to cancel Roseanne. "We knew what we wanted to do, and we did it. For us, we have had multiple instances with Roseanne, and certainly this tweet crossed the line that cannot be crossed, but it was for us a sense of enough is enough and something had to be done."
While Dungey believes the network made the right choice, she admits abruptly ridding many of their jobs felt wrong.
"...it was disappointing to think about what was going to happen to the cast and crew in the wake of that, and so what I'm so thrilled about is that we were able to bring the whole cast back and most of the crew to work on The Conners, so that feels like a real victory," she added.
Dungey added that The Conners came together almost quickly as Roseanne was canceled.
"Literally the next day I was on the phone with (executive producer) Tom Werner, and he was asking whether we would be open to the idea, and about a week later, I was on the phone with Tom and [fellow executive producers] Bruce Helford and Sara Gilbert, talking about the general shape of what they might want to try to do, and we had a real conversation in another week or two after they had time to break it out. But it was one of those ideas that they came in with [a clear intention to make it work]. I was very excited about the idea of keeping people working, and I also thought there were more stories in that universe in Lanford for us to tell," Dungey recalled.
As to what stories they will tell on The Conners and whether Roseanne Conner is dead in those stories, Dungey left the questions unanswered, noting that the show has resorted to heavy security and hand-delivered communications to avoid spoilers.
"What I can tell you is that thematically we will be focusing on a lot of the same themes that we were in the first nine episodes — what it's like today for a family to make ends meet in a world where they might be going into foreclosure, where work is scarce, where there are a lot of different challenges in terms of raising children as a single parent. All these issues are going to still be at the forefront," she said.
Despite the drama Roseanne and Barr caused earlier this summer, Dungey says she has no regrets about going into business with the embattled comedian.
"We obviously knew that she had a slightly volatile history in the previous incarnation of Roseanne," she said. "She had come to us very clear that she wanted to make the show a priority, really wanting a second chance at this and we took that at face value. I don't regret it, I am never going to regret waking up that morning and seeing the ratings from that first season, amazing. It's been a journey with ups and downs but I'm very excited about what we're going to have with the Conners in the fall, I think it's going to be great."
The Conners premieres Oct. 16 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.