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The premiere of the Roseanne revival scored massive ratings, despite controversy

After Roseanne Barr’s support for Donald Trump threatened to overshadow the series, the sitcom came out on top.

Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), and Dan (John Goodman) in the new Roseanne.
ABC

Ever since ABC announced its Roseanne revival, speculation loomed about how the beloved sitcom would be updated for 2018 — and how much creator and star Roseanne Barr’s offscreen support for Donald Trump might play into it.

The first few episodes, as Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff wrote, are frank, funny, and “very engaged with the idea of what Trump’s America looks like on the ground level,” with the first episode in particular using the conflict between Roseanne Conner (Barr) voting for Trump and her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) supporting Hillary Clinton to tackle that political friction head on. So while at first it seemed as though Barr might be a liability for the show, that did not turn out to be the case creatively — and as the massive ratings for the first two episodes have proved, plenty of people were ready and willing to see what Roseanne looks like in 2018.

In fact, initial ratings have the audience numbering a stunning 18.1 million viewers, with more tuning in from the first episode to the second (which aired back to back at 8 pm). To put that number in perspective, NBC’s Will & Grace revival — considered successful enough that it’s been renewed for three seasons already — premiered to an audience of just over 10 million. And as the Hollywood Reporter wrote, the Roseanne revival is now “the highest-rated regularly-scheduled scripted show of the last few seasons, since Empire at its peak, as well as the highest-rated sitcom broadcast in over three years.”

In fact, that number is remarkably close to Roseanne’s initial premiere in 1988 — a time when far more people watched live television — when 21 million people tuned in to help the show outperform the World Series game it was up against.

Whether the Roseanne revival can keep up that momentum remains to be seen. But at least for now, it’s proved itself more than capable of capturing a curious audience.