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‘Roseanne’: After Pitch Meeting, Producers Await ABC Decision on Sara Gilbert Spinoff

While key hurdles remain, a decision is expected within a week or so from ABC on a possible “Roseanne” spinoff built around Sara Gilbert’s character Darlene, Variety has learned.

Industry sources say that Gilbert and fellow “Roseanne” executive producers Tom Werner and Bruce Helford met Monday with ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey. The producers pitched Dungey on a spinoff idea they developed over the weekend that would focus on Gilbert’s character Darlene. A decision could come from ABC as early as this week on whether or not it is willing to move forward with the spinoff.

Indications are that key cast, including John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf, both of whom had been set to star in the upcoming season of “Roseanne” would come aboard for a spinoff. Showrunner Helford and most of the revived series’ writing staff would also be set to participate.

Because schedules had already been cleared to have the new season of “Roseanne” ready in time for fall, production on the possible spinoff could be up and running quickly — though not quick enough that the show could make it onto the schedule in time for the start of the fall season. Insiders noted that the earliest initial episodes might be available to premiere by would be late November.

A major stumbling still appears to be “Roseanne” star Roseanne Barr, whose racist tweet last week prompted ABC to cancel the multicamera comedy that had just recently been crowned TV’s highest rated scripted show in the 18-49 demo. Barr is considered creator of the character Roseanne Connor, a status that is believed to give her a stake in any spinoff. ABC is believed to still be opposed to any deal that would see Barr gain financially from a spinoff on its air.

Working in the spinoff’s favor is the belief that curiosity would drive large audiences to the show’s premiere in much the same way that the “Roseanne” debut benefited from questions over whether and how Barr’s support for President Donald Trump would manifest itself onscreen.

An ABC spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

ABC announced on Tuesday morning that it had canceled “Roseanne” just hours after the star apologized for a racist tweet directed at Valerie Jarrett, a former aide to President Barack Obama. Barr subsequently apologized for the tweet, later blaming it on her consumption of the sleeping drug Ambien. But since the show’s cancellation, she has lashed out at fellow stars and producers, including Gilbert.

“Roseanne” finished the 2017-18 television season as the No. 1 show in the advertiser-coveted 18-49 demo, according to Nielsen live-plus-same-day numbers. Barr was featured prominently last month at the network’s joint upfront presentation with cable channel Freeform, where she introduced Disney-ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood. The comic and the exec embraced in an onstage hug, with Barr joking that Sherwood was “the guy responsible for most of my tweets.”

In a statement last Tuesday, ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey said, “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant, and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

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