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ABC to air ‘Roseanne’ seg with warning label

What’s come to be known as the “lesbian kiss” episode of “Roseanne” has been scheduled to air March 1 — the last Tuesday of the February sweeps — but it will carry a parental advisory.

Both the network and the show’s production outfit, the Carsey-Werner Co., reiterated that discussions were ongoing as to exactly how the particular scene would be depicted.

While the rhubarb surrounding the episode will likely produce big ratings, ABC also figures to take a financial hit due to advertisers being scared off by the subject matter.

Exec producer Tom Arnold started the controversy by taking his beef with the network public in a newspaper interview (Daily Variety, Feb. 8). The episode in question has the show’s title character visiting a gay bar and kissing a woman, played by Mariel Hemingway.

The latest tussle with the Arnolds comes at an awkward time for ABC, which is in negotiations with Carsey-Werner to renew “Roseanne,” currently in its sixth season.

Due to the publicity, the network is taking heat from both sides of the political aisle, with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the conservative Media Research Center each criticizing the web in separate press releases Thursday.

GLAAD urged ABC to air the episode “and give the American public the freedom to judge for themselves,” while Media Research Center chief L. Brent Bozell maintained the network would “rather insult families than risk the wrath of a handful of militant homosexual groups and liberal producers in Hollywood.”

CBS ran into a similar buzz-saw last year with the series “Picket Fences,” which aired an installment in which two teenage girls kissed and one later professed a romantic interest in the other. “Roseanne” has dealt repeatedly with issues that are controversial by primetime standards, including marijuana usage and masturbation.

The show also has been adept at exploiting such topics as a means of self-promotion. Roseanne Arnold will be featured tonight on the ABC News magazine “20/20.”

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