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Roseanne & Tom Play Hardball : Television: The Arnolds set a deadline for ABC to commit to 'Jackie Thomas' as they threaten to take it and 'Roseanne' elsewhere. ABC had no comment.

April 15, 1993|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Biting the hand that programs them, Roseanne and Tom Arnold have dropped a bombshell on ABC, threatening to take the popular "Roseanne" show and the less-popular "The Jackie Thomas Show" to another network if ABC doesn't promptly renew "Jackie Thomas."

In interviews on "The Tonight Show" on Tuesday and "The KTLA Morning News" on Wednesday, Roseanne Arnold said she was frustrated with what she called ABC's lack of support for "The Jackie Thomas Show," which stars Tom Arnold as a bullying and brutish television star.

The Arnolds, who are the executive producers of "The Jackie Thomas Show" and are among the executive producers of "Roseanne," have been waiting for ABC to say whether it will renew "The Jackie Thomas Show," which has been steadily slipping in the ratings since its Dec. 1 premiere.

The Arnolds told KTLA entertainment reporter Sam Rubin that ABC had one day to make a decision about "Jackie Thomas" or else they would take the show to Fox or NBC. "ABC has the first option on the show, but they have until today to make up their minds," Tom Arnold said Wednesday in the interview.

Roseanne Arnold also indicated that she was network-shopping to move her top-rated sitcom, which is the second highest-rated show of the season, to another network in 1994. The Arnolds recently contracted with Carsey-Warner, which produces the show with them, to continue doing "Roseanne" for three more seasons. But the series is contracted to ABC only through next season.

"We just don't want to deal with people who say one thing and do another," said Roseanne Arnold, implying that ABC had privately promised to renew "Jackie Thomas," but had not made a public commitment. "If they don't believe in us and our work, why should we work with them?"

ABC, which has said a decision on the future of "The Jackie Thomas Show" will be reached next month, had no comment on the Arnolds' statements. Fox and CBS also declined comment. NBC officials would only say that if Roseanne Arnold were available, they would love to have her.

Tom Arnold also said that Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and Harry Thomason--who produce shows, including "Evening Shade" and "Designing Women," solely for CBS--were interested in doing a new series with him next year with what he called a "guaranteed on-air commitment."

Harry Thomason said through a spokesperson that he had had discussions with Tom Arnold, but declined to elaborate.

The Arnolds also said because of the dispute they were holding out on signing a long-term contract with ABC to produce future programs.

The comments were seen by some insiders as a brash negotiating ploy to pressure ABC to renew "The Jackie Thomas Show." The statements followed news of a strong ratings showing by "Delta," which replaced "Jackie Thomas" last week.

"Delta," starring Delta Burke, was the 12th-highest-rated show of the week and lost only 21% of "Roseanne' " audience. "The Jackie Thomas Show" had been routinely losing 35% of "Roseanne's" strong lead-in audience.

Roseanne Arnold called "The Jackie Thomas Show" "my best work. It's a great show, very dark, sinister and cutting edge. It's a lot more cutting edge than anything David Lynch and Oliver Stone can bring to television."

She also said that ABC was being unreasonable in expecting "Jackie Thomas" to keep her whole audience. "No new show can match my ratings," she said.

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