Sara Gilbert on ‘Roseanne’ Ratings Success: ‘Broadcast TV Is Not Dead’

The revival of “Roseanne” arrived with a jolt Tuesday night, nabbing over 18 million viewers — so much so that series star Sara Gilbert says she was “in shock” when the numbers were first reported.

“I knew that we performed better than people expected, but I didn’t understand that they were such phenomenal numbers at first,” Gilbert tells Variety. “It took me a minute.”

Gilbert, who not only stars in the sitcom but was one of the architects of the revival, says once it all sunk in, she was “thrilled” by the response. “You want people to connect and want to reach your audience and so often in this life and in this industry you fall short of achieving of what you want,” she says. “I’m just thrilled that people let us into their homes… I never expected this kind of response and I feel beyond grateful. There are no words because the words all sound cliche. I think the entire cast and producers, we’re all extremely grateful that America showed up.”

She credits the show’s success with audiences’ familiarity with the issues that face a working class family like the Conners. “I think that the Conners have always been a real family with real struggles and never a picture perfect family,” she says. “That’s something timeless, and hopefully that’s what they related to.”

Gilbert thinks viewers also responded to the political divide explored in the first episode, which found Roseanne Barr’s titular character, a Trump supporter, at odds with her sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) over the results of the 2016 election. “Almost every family is divided over politics right now in our country,” she says. “We really wanted to show a family dealing with the divide over politics that can still love each other and come together in the end.”

The rest of the season will bring coverage of other issues facing the family, from the high cost of health care to drug addiction. “We tried to tell stories that people are dealing with in this country and with their families in a humorous and heartfelt way,” she says. “I’m hopeful that people will continue to show up. We definitely put our heart and soul into it and I hope they go on the ride with us.”

Gilbert says it’s ultimately a vote of confidence for broadcast TV given the current cluttered landscape of over 500 scripted series. “It’s hard to compete in that landscape,” she says. “It helps to have a show with a built-in audience. People’s long relationship with us certainly gave us a leg up, but we’ve seen from other shows too that broadcast television is not dead. it’s just a harder landscape to survive in.”

And while other reboot attempts may have struggled, she credits “good timing” and the show’s creative team with making sure “Roseanne” still felt relevant. “Hopefully we stay true to the original show,” she says. Ahead of the premiere, Gilbert told Variety that maintaining the integrity of the original series was paramount to her and the rest of the creative time. “We got to address really important issues through the family relationships and through the comedy,” she said. “It really wasn’t ever hitting people over the head with a message or trying to convince anybody of anything. … So we wanted to tackle the issues of today through the family dynamic and through the humor of the show.”

The cast has been texting each other all day, Gilbert reports. “Everyone’s thrilled that it was born of love — a love for the work, a love for the show, a love for each other, and a love for the people who watched,” she says.

And though she won’t comment on prospects for a second season, she allows that “it has crossed my mind.” And she’s confident the rest of the cast would be on board. “I know we all loved doing it,” she says. “It’s all of our dream jobs. So I think everyone would love to make more.”


More TV

  • 'Lincoln Lawyer' Series in Development at

    'Lincoln Lawyer' Series in Development at CBS from David E. Kelley

    David E. Kelley is returning once more to the court of legal dramas. CBS has issued a series production commitment for “The Lincoln Lawyer,” with Kelley in position to pen and executive produce. Based on the series of bestselling novels by Michael Connelly, the show hails from A+E Studios in association with CBS TV Studios. [...]

  • Patrick Somerville'Maniac' TV Show premiere, London,

    'Maniac' Creator to Helm 'Made for Love,' 'Station Eleven' for WarnerMedia

    “Maniac” creator Patrick Somerville has signed on to helm two new series, “Made for Love” and “Station Eleven,” for WarnerMedia’s upcoming streaming service. “Made for Love,” which will be executive produced and directed by S.J. Clarkson, is a 10-episode, straight-to-series adaptation based on the novel of the same name by Alissa Nutting. The half-hour comedy [...]

  • Naomi Watts and Gretchen Carlson'The Loudest

    ‘The Loudest Voice’ Stars Naomi Watts, Russell Crowe Talk Roger Ailes

    Roger Ailes may have been the force behind the creation of Fox News, but the late newsman’s legacy will forever be his atrocious sexual harassment of several of the network’s female anchors and producers. Showtime premiered its new limited series “The Loudest Voice,” which chronicles Ailes’ rise and fall, on Monday night at the Paris [...]

  • Steve McQueen VSS

    Amazon to Launch Steve McQueen's Anthology Series ‘Small Axe’ in the U.S.

    Amazon has boarded “Small Axe,” the upcoming anthology series from “12 Years a Slave” director Steve McQueen, and will launch the series in the U.S. It will bow on the BBC in the U.K. and BBC Studios is selling it internationally. Amazon’s European content chief Georgia Brown revealed its involvement in the series, Tuesday, at [...]

  • Paula Pell

    Quibi Orders Comedic Murder Mystery From Lorne Michaels, 'SNL' Alums

    Quibi keeps shelling out cash for content: Jeffrey Katzenberg’s richly funded startup has ordered a short-form murder-mystery comedy written by and starring former “Saturday Night Live” writers Paula Pell and John Lutz, and executive produced by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video alongside Seth Meyers and Mike Shoemaker. In “Mapleworth Murders,” Pell (pictured above) is Abigail Mapleworth, [...]

  • Sky

    Comcast Expected to Appoint Maximo Ibarra as New Sky Italia CEO

    Colombian-Italian executive Maximo Ibarra is expected to be appointed CEO of Comcast-owned pay-TV operation Sky Italia, which has been without a chief executive for the past seven months, a source close to Sky Italia tells Variety. An announcement is believed imminent that Ibarra will be the Italian paybox’s new chief after it was announced Tuesday [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content