ABC’s Channing Dungey Doesn’t Regret Greenlighting ‘Roseanne’ Reboot
ABC Entertainment Group president Channing Dungey said she does not regret greenlighting the reboot of the popular sitcom Roseanne, which she quickly cancelled after the series’ controversial star tweeted a racist joke about Valerie Jarrett, former adviser to U.S. president Barack Obama.
Speaking Tuesday at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit in Laguna Niguel, Calif., Dungey said ABC executives and showrunners for the rebooted sitcom originally envisioned that the show would tell “broader stories about a certain part of the country” that was “challenged more economically.”
Episodes during the relaunched sitcom’s first season “hit all the places we wanted to hit, narratively” about the struggles of a modern-day blue-collar working-class family, Dungey said.
“I’m very proud of how it turned out,” she told an audience of executives.
However, actor-comedian Roseanne Barr’s infamous tweet in May “crossed a line that cannot be crossed,” Dungey said, and led to her move to cancel the show. (The decision was supported by Disney chairman and CEO Bob Iger: “There was only one thing to do here, and that was the right thing,” he tweeted on May 29.)
Still, “I’m happy we were able to put everybody back to work” for a new Roseanne spinoff series called The Connors that excludes Barr. The show will employ the majority of Roseanne’s writers as well as central cast members such as John Goodman and Sara Gilbert.
It can be challenging in these “politically charged times” for entertainment executives who “don’t want to infringe on someone’s freedom of speech of their ability to share their views,” Dungey said—especially when their stars want to express themselves on social media platforms or industry panels.
“In this case, unfortunately, that tweet crossed a line,” she said.
The decision to cancel the Roseanne reboot brought considerable attention to Dungey, the first female African-American leader of a major broadcast television network. Still, she said she prefers to remain behind the scenes.
It’s a preference she attributes to her childhood, growing up with a sister who was an actress. Said Dungey, with a smile: “I was running tech for all of her creative performances in our household.”