It strikes me as unpromising for Roseanne’s new recession-themed sitcom, Downwardly Mobile, that the comedienne is splitting time between it, and pursuing the Green Party’s nomination for president. I’d be happier with a world where I thought the woman who gave us Roseanne was seriously focused on giving us the show the networks haven’t in difficult economic times. But seeing her step in a disorganized fashion into Ralph Nader’s vacated shoes seems of a piece with her self-aggrandizing, un-self-aware and now-cancelled show about running a macadamia nut farm: scattershot, arrogant, and not particularly attuned to what’s meaningful. Plus, it means NBC has yet another equal time problem on its hands. Per Deadline:
For the time being, Barr’s presidential run does not pose a problem for NBC as the project, which she co-created and stars in, is in a pilot stage. But things will get dicier if NBC picks it up to series in May and Barr ends up as the Green Party presidential nominee as the campaign doesn’t wrap until the November election, well into the fall season, which starts in September. According to FCC’s equal-time rule, which applies to “all legally qualified candidates” who have “substantial showing” in the campaign, TV and radio stations are obligated to offer equivalent time to competing political candidates if one gets free airtime. While the rule’s application to entertainment shows featuring candidates is more ambiguous than when the candidates do news programs, networks err on the side of caution. For example, when Fred D. Thompson entered the race for the Republican nomination in 2008, he quit NBC’s Law & Order and NBC stopped rerunning episodes of the show that he was featured in. Last year, NBC also indicated that The Apprentice star Trump would be recast if he chose to run for President. Similarly, Alec Baldwin of NBC’s comedy 30 Rock toyed with the idea of leaving the show in order to run for office. (Isn’t it strange that its always talent on NBC shows that have political aspirations?) Barr is known for outrageous moves, including her recent plan to behead bankers who don’t return profits. Still, the timing for her presidential run is strange as it comes just as the actress signed a seven-year deal with 20th Century TV for Downwardly Mobile.
If only NBC would get all creative on us and solve the equal time problem Roseanne presents by casting Barack Obama and Mitt Romney as antagonists on Parks and Recreation. Mitt could team up with Marcia Langman to complain that the Parks Department’s programs are inculcating the very poor with the wrong values, or something, and Barack could represent the Parks Department pro-bono when they get hit with a Mitt-funded lawsuit. Huzzah for aligning the interests of quality television and legal doctrines. In reality, what NBC should and probably will do is not go forward with Downwardly Mobile if Roseanne, unlike Donald Trump, sticks with the campaign. Which, if its star is spending more time stumping than thinking intelligently about how to develop her show, might be the right thing to do creatively anyway.