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TV Academy Is Snubbing 'Roseanne' : Commentary: How come the popular, Peabody-winning series has never been nominated for an Emmy for best comedy series?

July 23, 1994|RICK DU BROW | TIMES TELEVISION WRITER

"We're dumbfounded," says Tom Werner, co-partner of the company that produces ABC's "Roseanne."

Werner is responding to Thursday's Emmy Award nominations, in which "Roseanne" was shut out again in the category of best comedy series.

In its six seasons of huge popular success--and despite such accolades as a Peabody Award, widely regarded as broadcasting's highest honor--"Roseanne" has never been nominated for a best comedy series Emmy.

We're not talking about an Emmy Award here--just a nomination.

"I think it's lousy," ABC Entertainment President Ted Harbert says of the shutout.

It's also curious because the show's star--who now calls herself just Roseanne because of her split with husband Tom Arnold--won last year's Emmy as best comedy series actress and was nominated again Thursday.

Other performers in the series--John Goodman, Laurie Metcalf and Sara Gilbert--have also won nominations over the years. And Metcalf has received two Emmy Awards.

But the show itself?

Zilch.

The series that beat out "Roseanne" in Thursday's nominations are all worthy--"Frasier," "The Larry Sanders Show," "Seinfeld," "Home Improvement" and "Mad About You."

But it's hard to believe that the voters of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences actually chose "Mad About You" over "Roseanne," which has earned major points for blending earthy comedy with social issues.

And if "Roseanne" is based on the controversial star's pointed comedy from her stand-up days, how can she be nominated and the show not?

"Roseanne," which debuted in 1988, was immediately significant as perhaps the first comedy series to drive home the point that the idealized family humor of TV, epitomized by NBC's long-dominant "Cosby Show," was taking a sharp turn.

"Roseanne" seemed to be saying: Welcome to the post-"Cosby" era and take a look at the down-and-dirty blue-collar class that is trying to struggle by in a tough world.

Another series, Fox's "Married . . . With Children," was apparently saying the same thing but far more crudely and with none of the comic vision or insight of "Roseanne."

Roseanne ticked off plenty of people in Hollywood with her outspokenness, often-sensational behavior and obvious lack of concern for the phony rules and niceties of Tinseltown.

But if that's the case, how come she has won Emmy nominations while the series has been ignored as an awards contender?

Are some academy voters still holding back their full blessing because of her flamboyant public behavior?

Does the TV industry--which has no qualms about sinking to impossible depths with Amy Fisher movies and trashy newsmagazines--think that somehow the blue-collar atmosphere of "Roseanne" does not project an image that is classy enough for the medium at awards time?

It's a travesty.

What about the blue-collar raucousness of "All in the Family" and "The Honeymooners," just to name a couple of examples?

It so happens I'm not a huge fan of "Roseanne," but the hypocrisy of academy voters toward the show is blatant and more than a little unfair.

"We think it's the best show on television," says Werner. Imagine, he says, a series that has been "honored with a Peabody but has never even been nominated for an Emmy. We think the academy doesn't like us. But we think the people do."

"Roseanne" tied with "Seinfeld" last season as the second most popular entertainment series on TV, trailing only "Home Improvement"--another show with blue-collar appeal but with a less flamboyant star, Tim Allen.

Harbert says, "The only speculation I would offer (about the "Roseanne" snub) is that this is a show about what it is like to live in mid-America on a lower income and facing all the struggles that may be unrelatable to the fortunate people who work in the entertainment business.

"Perhaps people think it is hipper to be represented by a 'Seinfeld' than a 'Roseanne' because of the upper-income, educated patina."

NBC is moving the red-hot "Frasier" directly against "Roseanne" this fall in hopes of cutting down the ABC hit. And Harbert says he's "giving thought" to having "Home Improvement" take over the "Roseanne" slot to blunt the strategy. If that happens, "Roseanne" presumably would move into the "Home Improvement" time period.

Meanwhile, the lack of a best-series nomination for "Roseanne" is another slap in the face. Says a source close to the television academy: "Clearly the performer branch is very enthusiastic about Roseanne the actress. The performer branch is approximately 15% of the entire voting membership. But somewhere between the enthusiasm of her peers and the overall membership of the academy, something happens."

And it's wrong.

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