When I was growing up, it wasn’t often that my family ate dinner at home — we ate out a lot, probably too much, at places like Shoney’s or Captain D’s, where kids could eat for free on certain days. Then there were Monday night dinners at Grandma’s house and Wednesday night dinners at church.
But when we did eat dinner at home, it was often in our den, in front of the TV, with our dinner plates resting on rickety TV trays. Most often, we’d watch reruns of “Roseanne” on TV, or sometimes, “The Simpsons.”
I realize now, looking back, this was hardly what so many families strive for: The homemade from scratch meal, family around a dinner table kind of childhood. But it’s what I know. My mom was a single mom who worked full time. And after weekly “Kids Eat Free” nights out, dinner on TV trays while watching “Roseanne” at home was something I looked forward to.
Again, this was the early 1990s. Organic meals and streaming constant wholesome, child-friendly television wasn’t a thing yet.
I realize now that the show, even in its original version, was crass and a little uncouth. But in the days of shows like “Family Matters” and “Full House” — which I admit I also watched — “Roseanne” seemed more real.
When ABC revived “Roseanne” this year, my husband was shocked when I set our DVR to record the series.
“Seriously?” he asked as I curled up on our couch one night to watch the show after our three kids went to bed.
Admittedly, after watching the first couple episodes of the series reboot, I could see that we weren’t the target audience. I found myself wishing for less of the political humor and more of what attracted me to the show as a kid — the unapologetically imperfect family dynamic. And it was still there, although different. Just as I’ve changed a lot over the last 25 years, the characters had, too, but watching the show was a little like eating an old recipe you grew up on — it’s familiar.
Then the show got canceled last week, after Roseanne Barr tweeted racist comments about former White House adviser Valerie Jarrett.
“Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj,” Barr said in a now-deleted tweet.
Barr had been tweeting in response to a conspiratorial Twitter thread that accusing Jarrett of helping to cover-up CIA spying. Barr’s costars on the show quickly rebuked her. Consulting producer Wanda Sykes announced she would quit the show. And only hours after Barr’s tweet, ABC canceled the show. Barr later apologized to Jarrett, to the show’s cast and crew, and to “all Americans” and even later blamed a series of hate-spewed tweets on the sleep drug Ambien.
It was too little, too late.
Barr has a history of inflammatory, conspiratorial posts on social media. Perhaps ABC should have considered that before reviving the series. While the comedienne has the right to free speech, as do all Americans, there are plenty of professions where speech is limited due to the job — journalists included. Comedians like Barr are known for being crass. But there’s a fine line between being crass and being hateful.
Barr crossed the line. And as much as I enjoyed her show as a kid, I don’t think I’m going to miss the reboot one bit.
There’s an old saying that I often tell my kids, “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” In today’s world of social media, it’s an idea that is probably more important now than ever.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.