As a Hollywood music editor who has performed soundtrack work on numerous TV series over the decades, Dino Moriana has seen many network shows come and go. But even he has never witnessed a job evaporate as quickly as his gig on ABC’s rebooted “Roseanne.”
The Woodland Hills resident recalled that he was driving Tuesday morning when he heard over the radio that ABC had decided to cancel the hit sitcom after Roseanne Barr’s Twitter post in which she described former Obama official Valerie Jarrett as the offspring of the Muslim brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
Moriana, who expects to lose tens of thousands of dollars in income as a result of the “Roseanne” cancellation, is one of hundreds of Los Angeles-area production and technical personnel who saw their jobs vanish in a flash when the network pulled the plug on its top-rated comedy after just one season.
“It was frustrating and I was really angry,” Moriana said. “It's really maddening. She [Barr] was so irresponsible that she put all these people out of work.”
For a show that championed America’s forgotten working-class families, the irony is that the biggest casualties of the cancellation will be the blue-collar employees — the below-the-line workers who built the sets, drove the trucks and wired the lighting.
Although “Roseanne” was in between seasons, the cancellation comes at a time when TV production is booming in Los Angeles. Sitcoms in particular have staged a comeback in recent years and provide a vital source of jobs and business to prop houses and other small businesses that fuel L.A.'s signature production economy. Hit shows such as “Roseanne” are especially valuable because they provide long-term, steady employment to crews in an industry where steady employment is a rarity.
The sitcom’s cancellation came the first day when “Roseanne” writers and other staff had reconvened to plan the second season. Many shows have already staffed up for the upcoming TV season, which could make it difficult for laid-off crew members to find replacement work. “That's a real big problem. The timing couldn't be worse to do this kind of thing,” Moriana added.
Industry experts estimate that the new “Roseanne” employed 300 to 400 people, including actors, crew members, designers and post-production engineers and prop makers. The half-hour show shot on sound stages at CBS Studio Center in Studio City. Some of its post-production work was done at Warner Bros. in Burbank.
Although Disney-owned ABC aired “Roseanne,” the series was produced by Carsey-Werner Television, which employed the show’s crew and other personnel. The production company declined a request for comment.
Some crew members are expected come back for two more weeks to dismantle the “Roseanne” set, and then they will face unemployment.
Many were expecting at least another nine months of work since ABC had officially renewed the show after it became a ratings bonanza, said Ed Brown, business representative for Local 44 of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, which represents prop makers, set decorators and special effects workers.
“This has got to have severe impact on the people working on that show,” Brown said. “They knew they were working on the No. 1-rated show in America. They were already making plans, maybe upgrading their homes or purchasing that one luxury item they’ve been saving up for all these years. They had a sense of security…. Now they’re in complete in shock mode.”
Brown added that an apology from Barr won’t help people who no longer have jobs. “Is she [Barr] going to turn around and feed all these people? It’s a big blow.”
On social media, Barr has sent mixed messages to her former staff and crew members in the days since the show’s cancellation.
“I just want to apologize to the hundreds of people and wonderful writers (all liberal) and talented actors who lost their jobs on my show due to my stupid tweet,” she posted on Twitter on Tuesday. But that tweet no longer appears on her account.
The actress struck a more defiant tone on Wednesday, retweeting a comment from a follower who blamed ABC, not Barr, for lost jobs. She also retweeted posts critical of ABC Entertainment President Channing Dungey, and retweeted a Wednesday post from President Trump in which he mocked Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger for his handling of the situation.
Actress Sara Gilbert, who played Roseanne’s daughter and served as an executive producer on the rebooted series, wrote on Twitter on Tuesday that “this is incredibly sad and difficult for all of us, as we’ve created a show that we believe in, are proud of, and that audiences love.”
ABC declined requests for comment. Disney/ABC Television Group President Ben Sherwood recognized the efforts of the show’s staff in an internal memo Wednesday.
“Not enough ... has been said about the many men and women who poured their hearts and lives into the show and were just getting started on next season,” Sherwood said. “We’re so sorry they were swept up in all of this and we give thanks for their remarkable talents, wish them well, and hope to find another way to work together down the road.”
Sitcom production has soared in L.A. in recent years, rising an average of 12.3% over the last five years, according to a report from FilmL.A., the organization that oversees shooting permits. But that report only counts on-location shoots, not sound stage production.
FilmL.A. said that local sound stage occupancy reached 92% for the first half of 2017, the most recent period for which information was available.
“The good news is that the industry is doing well and demand is up and there are [job] opportunities. The question is whether people will be able to move quickly,” said Kevin Klowden, the executive director of the Milken Institute’s Center for Regional Economics and California Center.
While the rebooted “Roseanne” was short-lived, its popularity could have a longer-term positive effect on the local production economy if studios try to replicate its success and green-light more sitcoms of a similar style — multi-camera shoots that take place primarily on sound stages.
“Those kinds of shows are more likely to film in L.A.,” Klowden said.
For now, there are hundreds of “Roseanne” crew members and technicians looking for jobs.
“They've been left in the lurch,” said Susan Cabral-Ebert, president of the makeup artists and hairstylists guild, IATSE Local 706. “It was a lot of the same crew [Barr] had 20 years ago…. It's people who had come back to what they thought would be a long-term show.”
She said that once a show is canceled, people put themselves on availability lists for work.