March 29, 2018 / 8:30 PM / 6 months ago

After massive ratings, TV's Roseanne Barr gets call from Trump

LOS ANGELES, March 29 (Reuters) - Comedian Roseanne Barr on Thursday said it was "pretty exciting" to receive a congratulatory phone call from President Donald Trump after the return of her hit 1990s TV comedy "Roseanne," about a working-class American family, drew huge ratings.

Barr said on ABC's "Good Morning America" show that she hopes the ABC series will help people "agree to disagree" and foster more amicable relations between politically entrenched Trump supporters and opponents.

"I really hope that it opens up civil conversation instead of just mudslinging, I really do," said Barr, who supports the Republican president and said she spoke with him on Wednesday.

"Roseanne," which wades into the divisiveness of U.S. politics, drew more than 18 million viewers on Tuesday, according to ratings data. That was a significant number for broadcast television, which has come under ratings pressure from online streaming and delayed viewing.

"He's just happy for me," Barr, who herself voted for Trump, said of the former reality TV show star. "I've known him for many years, and he's done a lot of nice things for me over the years, and it was just a friendly conversation about working and television and ratings."

Trump frequently talks or tweets about shows' TV ratings, sometimes comparing them with those from the days of his own show, "The Apprentice."

The original "Roseanne" aired from 1988 to 1997. It featured a blue-collar family, the Conners, with overweight parents struggling to get by in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois, and was praised for its realistic portrayal of working-class life.

In the revival, Roseanne is a Trump voter who faces off against her sister Jackie, played by Laurie Metcalf, who portrays an ardent opponent of the president.

The comedy will also deal with issues such as opioid addiction and access to healthcare, and features Roseanne's grown-up daughter, Darlene, played again by Sara Gilbert, whose young son is gender fluid, wearing traditionally girls' clothes to school.

Gilbert told trade publication Variety the series reflects American families' dinner-table political battles.

"We really wanted to show a family dealing with the divide over politics that can still love each other and come together in the end," Gilbert said.

ABC, owned by Walt Disney Co, said the two back-to-back half-hour opening episodes drew some 1.5 million viewers more than the finale of "Roseanne" in May 1997 - an era before Americans had wider viewing choices offered by streaming platforms.

"Roseanne" is the latest hit show from the 1980s and 199Os to be revived. It follows NBC comedy "Will & Grace" and Showtime's supernatural crime drama "Twin Peaks," both of which returned to television in 2017. (Reporting by Eric Kelsey; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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