The Gladiators of ‘Scandal’ Leave the Arena

Given the limited number of episodes ABC originally ordered, did you feel like you had to cultivate your own audience? Is that why you turned to Twitter?

WASHINGTON I was coming off working on the Obama campaign and the huge change that social media made in that campaign. We had to do everything we could on a grass-roots level to make people love this show. What worked was that we all loved our show and wanted to be talking to each other and the fans because we were so proud of the work we were doing. It was just so truthful.

RHIMES And it had an authenticity to it. It wasn’t about …


GOLDWYN I mean I had never been on Twitter before. Shonda got us all together and said Kerry had this idea. Are you guys all up to do this? I’m like, teach me which button to push.

YOUNG It also made “Scandal” appointment TV because you wanted to be a part of the conversation. We are all theater kids and we loved it because it felt like we could feel our audience there. You could see how those scenes landed and if that joke worked or if the audience cried. People came together across the globe.


Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

Olivia Pope is a complicated female lead who’s a black woman, who’s messy and multidimensional. Did you think there were any cultural risks involved in having a black female antihero?

RHIMES I’m smiling because I wasn’t thinking of her that way. For me, writing Olivia Pope as the lead meant she got to be the lead and the lead is everything. She’s the love interest, she’s mean, she’s kind, she’s flawed, she’s brilliant at her job. She makes mistakes. Equality is getting to be as screwed up and as messed up as all of the other leads on television.

GOLDWYN Audiences don’t need likable characters, they need compelling characters.


Olivia Pope (Ms. Washington, third from left) calls her team of lawyers, hackers and assassins (Katie Lowes, Guillermo Diaz and George Newbern) her “gladiators.”

Nicole Wilder/ABC


Ms. Washington’s Olivia Pope is both fully in command and deeply flawed, often driven by a higher purpose even when her actions were unseemly.

Richard Cartwright/ABC

“Scandal” started in the Obama presidency and now ends in the Trump one. The show lived through all those political moments and yet now gives us an alternative of what could have been: the first woman president. And the relationship between Olivia and Mellie seems as important as the love triangle among Fitz, Olivia and Jake [played by Scott Foley] that we’ve struggled with throughout the show.

YOUNG At the outset it was always a palpable undercurrent of how close they could have been; we’re not just resigned to Olivia as [the president’s] mistress. To watch women build up women is also very important in terms or representation on television. You get two women in a scene and if they’re not talking about a man or fighting you’re like, why are they even speaking to each other?

WASHINGTON What are they talking about? We’re talking about world politics, bitches.

YOUNG America is so behind the rest of the world in terms of being comfortable with women in power. It just goes back to representation and they just aren’t used to it. They’re used to power as for old, white men.


YOUNG Straight, old, white men.

GOLDWYN It is one of the things that I keep being surprised by, that suddenly something that made you very uncomfortable and felt very strange and not normal becomes normal in a way.

Shonda’s creating a world for the audience in which the Republican chief of staff happens to be gay and has a husband without mention. There was no mention of an interracial relationship until well into Season 2.


Ryan Pfluger for The New York Times

One of the things that is important about your work is that race is there but it isn’t there. Many of the show’s intimate relationships are interracial: adoption, friendships, workplace and romantic relationships.

RHIMES Race is there. Race is very there. Once Papa Pope [played by Joe Morton] showed up, we say blackness of a different kind showed up. In a weird way, Olivia Pope was sort of the post-racial Obama world that everybody believed they were living in and Papa Pope is old school. He showed up and was like, don’t you remember that everybody is inherently racist? He remembers and believed in a very different world and felt like his daughter has lost her mind.

It’s the same thing when we did the lawn chair episode [its take on the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Mo.] and she met Marcus [a civil rights activist]. Her black and his black were very different kinds of black and you watched them clash. She’s isolated. I mean it’s very clear she’s isolated.

WASHINGTON It’s not that she rejects the community; she is not ashamed of being black. She’s fully aware of her blackness. She just doesn’t identify historically with the burden of blackness because she was raised with a sense of impossibility.

RHIMES Papa Pope did his job and to his own regret. He raised an entirely privileged black girl who thought she was as entitled to everything as any white man.


As Olivia Pope’s father, Joe Morton (right) saw racial issues in a very different light than his daughter.

Eric McCandless/ABC


The Season 4 episode “The Lawn Chair,” inspired by the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., was an example of the show’s more explicit handling of racial issues.


What do you want the legacy of these characters to be?

GOLDWYN For me, the most interesting thing about playing the character is that the man who is the most powerful person in the world and occupies an iconic position and has an iconic look has feet of clay. It’s like he’s just a dude, messed up and complicated and flawed.

YOUNG Mellie has lived deeply and that makes me proud of her. Shonda and our writers opened up a whole rainbow of womanhood on screen and we got to be all of our colors, beautiful and horrible and driven and vulnerable and courageous and terrified.

RHIMES I don’t know. I’m still in the middle.

WASHINGTON I can barely breathe right now. It has taken every tool in my acting toolbox to not weep through this entire interview. It’s very raw.

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Kenya Barris, Creator of ‘Black-ish,’ Is Said to Seek an Exit From ABC

Representatives for Mr. Barris, ABC and Netflix declined to comment.

A split would mark another high-profile departure for ABC. Ms. Rhimes, the force behind “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal” and “How to Get Away With Murder,” decamped for Netflix last year. But ABC also has a degree of strength that it hasn’t had in years, thanks to the revival of “Roseanne,” which has scored blockbuster ratings in its first two weeks. ABC also has a new hit drama, “The Good Doctor,” and its reboot of “American Idol” has performed solidly.

Ever since Netflix poached Ms. Rhimes and Mr. Murphy, many star producers in Hollywood have been expressing some resentment that they do not have similar deals.

“Black-ish,” which is in its fourth season, has been a standout comedy for ABC, praised for its nuanced approach to race relations. It has earned a Golden Globe Award for one of its cast members, Tracee Ellis Ross, as well as a Peabody Award.

In the shelved episode, Dre, an advertising executive played by Anthony Anderson, raised socially fraught issues while telling a bedtime story to his baby son, Devante.

“Dre is on baby duty for the night during a storm, and the household is wide-awake,” ABC declared in a news release before the show had been pulled. “He decides to read a crying Devante a bedtime story, but when that doesn’t do the trick, Dre tosses it aside and begins to tell a story of his own about the current state of the country in a way Devante will understand.”


“Black-ish” features Anthony Anderson and Tracee Ellis Ross, center. In February, ABC decided not to run an episode, citing creative differences with Mr. Barris.

Eric McCandless, via Getty Images

Mr. Barris co-wrote and directed the episode, which reportedly was also going to examine the National Football League’s “take a knee” protest.

It is rare for an episode to be pulled, especially in a series as important to a network as “black-ish.” At the time, ABC and Mr. Barris papered over their tensions with bland pronouncements.

“Given our creative differences, neither ABC nor I were happy with the direction of the episode and mutually agreed not to air it,” Mr. Barris said in a statement last month. “‘Black-ish’ is a show that has spoken to all different types of people and brought them closer as a community and I’m so proud of the series.”

In its own statement, ABC said: “One of the things that has always made black-ish’ so special is how it deftly examines delicate social issues in a way that simultaneously entertains and educates. However, on this episode there were creative differences we were unable to resolve.”

Mr. Barris, who also has a hot movie career, co-writing the script for “Girls Trip” and a coming remake of “Shaft,” canceled an appearance at a South by Southwest panel in Austin, Tex., the day after the news surfaced that the episode would not air.

Making matters more complicated at ABC, the most recent episode of “Roseanne,” which more than 15 million people watched on Tuesday, included a glib exchange about “black-ish” and another ABC sitcom, “Fresh Off the Boat,” which is about an Asian-American family.

In the middle of the episode, Roseanne Conner (played by Roseanne Barr, the show’s star and co-creator) and her husband, Dan (John Goodman), fall asleep on a couch with the TV on. When Roseanne wakes up, she remarks that they slept all the way from “Wheel of Fortune,” the syndicated game show that airs before prime time, to “Jimmy Kimmel Live!,” the ABC late-night show.

“We missed all the shows about black and Asian families,” Dan remarks, to a chorus of laughs from the “Roseanne” studio audience.

“They’re just like us,” replies Roseanne, who grabs the remote and turns off the TV. “There, now you’re all caught up.”

The reboot of “Roseanne” was one result of an attempt by ABC to appeal more to Middle America in the wake of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 election win. That strategy is what helped persuade the network to schedule “Roseanne,” an ABC hit from 1988 to 1997 that features a white working-class family in Illinois.

“We had spent a lot of time looking for diverse voices in terms of people of color and people from different religions and even people with a different perspective on gender,” Channing Dungey, ABC’s entertainment president, said in an interview last week. “But we had not been thinking nearly enough about economic diversity and some of the other cultural divisions within our own country. That’s been something we’ve been really looking at with eyes open since that time.”

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Trump Rings Up Roseanne Barr After Her Show Is a Ratings Winner


Roseanne Barr received a call from President Trump on Wednesday congratulating her on the high ratings her comedy had received. “Roseanne” is back on the air after more than two decades.

Brinson+Banks for The New York Times

President Trump made a personal phone call on Wednesday to a political supporter with a huge megaphone — Roseanne Barr.

Mr. Trump called Ms. Barr to congratulate her on the revival of her comedy, “Roseanne,” and to thank her for her support.

The call was confirmed by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

The president, an obsessive about how TV shows perform, was enthralled by the “huge” ratings “Roseanne” had received, said a person familiar with the call. The show’s first episode, broadcast Tuesday evening on ABC, averaged 18.2 million viewers.

“Roseanne,” featuring a working-class family of five and assorted relatives, returned to the air this week more than two decades after it ended its run. The lead actress’s character plays a backer of Mr. Trump. (Roseanne’s TV sister, Jackie Harris, by contrast, supports Hillary Clinton, though ultimately voted for Jill Stein.)

Ms. Barr herself has been a vocal defender of Mr. Trump.

In an interview with The New York Times published Tuesday, Ms. Barr said that she decided to turn her character, Roseanne Conner, into a Trump supporter because she felt it was an “accurate portrayal” of the political preferences of many working-class Americans.

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‘Roseanne’ Revival Wins Huge TV Ratings


The actress and executive producer Roseanne Barr at the premiere of “Roseanne” in Burbank, Calif., last week. The star, a supporter of President Trump, has said the show would deal with the hot political moment the country is in.

Valerie Macon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At least for a night, America said it really did want more “Roseanne.”

The revival of the vintage ABC sitcom got off to an enormously strong start on Tuesday night, drawing 18.2 million viewers and a 5.1 rating among adults under 50, according to Nielsen. The “Roseanne” numbers rank as the highest total of any comedy on the broadcast networks since the 2014 season premiere of “The Big Bang Theory.”

For comparison’s sake, NBC’s reboot of “Will & Grace” in September drew a little over 10 million viewers and a 3.0 rating among 18- to 49-year-olds. Earlier this month, ABC’s revival of “American Idol” reached an audience of 10.3 million viewers and scored a 2.3 rating in the prize demographic. Both debuts were cause for celebration at both broadcast networks.

The “Roseanne” numbers, however, are in an entirely different category and stand to grow when delayed viewing is factored in.

Many TV industry executives were divided on whether or not a new version of “Roseanne” would take off. Though the industry has been in a reboot craze for the last two years (series like “Full House,” “Twin Peaks,” “The X-Files,” “One Day at a Time” and “Murphy Brown,” have all been brought back to life), the results have ranged from “meh” to solid.

Unlike those shows, “Roseanne” has seemingly appealed to viewers for reasons having nothing to do with nostalgia: In interviews leading up to the sitcom’s premiere, the show’s Emmy-winning star, Roseanne Barr, made it clear that she was a supporter of President Trump and let it be known that her program would grapple with a hot political moment that has divided some American families.


Ms. Barr and John Goodman in a scene from the reboot of “Roseanne.”

Adam Rose/American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., via Associated Press

“I’ve always had it be a true reflection of the society we live in,” Ms. Barr said during a Television Critics Association press event in January. “Half the country voted for him, half of them didn’t. It’s just realistic.”

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Podcasts Get the Hollywood Treatment, Complete With Zach Braff

A podcast offers up intellectual property in a particularly appealing format — compared with a book or even a script, it’s a stronger proof of concept of how a show or movie would actually play out. “It’s one step closer to seeing it onscreen,” Mr. Tarses said. “You already know what it sounds like.”

Like many of the properties bending Hollywood’s ear, “StartUp” is a very successful podcast; it’s been downloaded tens of millions of times since its debut in 2014. But podcast listeners still constitute a very different audience than viewers of network sitcoms, with different sensibilities. And the elements that make a podcast spark — internal conflict, patient world building, conversational digressions — don’t translate seamlessly to TV.

“There were things we loved about the podcast, but we had to turn it into an ABC show,” Mr. Braff said.

So the inside story of starting a podcasting company is refocused as a broad family comedy. Mr. Blumberg’s real-life business partner, the Gimlet co-founder and president Matt Lieber — who holds an M.B.A. from M.I.T. and started his career at NPR and WNYC — is recast as a scrappy salesman played by Michael Imperioli. It’s a bid to differentiate the characters and inject an Everyman foil to the insular and often absurd podcaster culture on display. “We wanted to have an in for the layman who has no clue what a podcast is,” Mr. Braff said. “He’s a character who is comically naïve to this whole world.”

Then there’s an invented character, the female producer Deirdre, whose central personality trait is that she is hopelessly in love with Alex — a retrograde note not on display in Gimlet’s offices or in its shows. Also, Alex carries a comically oversized old-time microphone with him everywhere he goes, a way to visually telegraph his job to viewers. In real life, “it’s not so big,” Mr. Blumberg conceded. Mr. Sacca, though, is unchanged: After an acting crash-course from Mr. Braff, the investor played himself.

Personality-based podcasts offer the temptation of a more effortless adaptation. Earlier this year, HBO spun the WNYC podcast “2 Dope Queens,” starring the comedians Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams, into a four-part live special, and the network has struck a deal with the Obama staffers-turned-podcasters of “Pod Save America” to air a live series in the lead-up to the 2018 midterms.

“We didn’t want to dramatically alter their formula, and that took the pressure off them to continue doing what they were already doing so well,” Nina Rosenstein, executive vice president for programming at HBO, said of “2 Dope Queens.”


HBO spun the WNYC podcast “2 Dope Queens,” starring the comedians Jessica Williams and Phoebe Robinson, into a four-part live special.

Mindy Tucker/HBO

Some transitions from audio to visuals feel natural: The comedians Desus Nice and the Kid Mero’s cult hit “Bodega Boys” podcast has translated easily to the Viceland late-night talk show “Desus & Mero.”

Others, not so much. When the beloved podcast host Bill Simmons tried to take his interview style to HBO, on the late-night program “Any Given Wednesday,” he floundered onscreen. And even the most promising projects can fall through: “Serial” was optioned in 2015 for development by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the filmmaking team behind “The Lego Movie” and “21 Jump Street,” but the project languished and the option has since expired. The Serial team is now in talks to adapt its American gothic true-crime serial “S-Town.”

“The mediums want very different things,” said Mr. Blumberg, who previously worked for “This American Life,” including on that radio program’s TV adaptation that aired on Showtime from 2007 to 2009.

But increasingly, podcast makers are behaving more like TV and film companies, developing and packaging projects themselves. When Mr. Davis came knocking for “StartUp” in 2015, Gimlet ceded creative control of the adaptation to the network. At the time, Mr. Blumberg said, “we were barely putting our podcasts out the door.”

Now, Gimlet is developing and pitching its podcasts instead of waiting for Hollywood to call, and in January, the company started Gimlet Pictures, a new division headed by Chris Giliberti. “Homecoming,” the podcast network’s first scripted thriller, is now headed to Amazon, and this time, “our fingerprints are all over it creatively,” Mr. Lieber said.

Mr. Giliberti has an office on the studio lot, and he flies out to Los Angeles from Gimlet’s Brooklyn offices every couple of weeks. Eli Horowitz, who wrote the Gimlet show with the screenwriter Micah Bloomberg, is acting as showrunner of the Amazon series. Gimlet also recruited the show’s director, Sam Esmail of “Mr. Robot”; helped staff the writer’s room; and cast the star, Julia Roberts. (Gimlet’s representation with CAA, Ms. Roberts’s agency, helped.)

Gimlet is also working to develop an episode of its tech podcast “Reply All” — about a charismatic figure who used a new technology, radio, to manipulate the masses — into a film. The director Richard Linklater and the star Robert Downey Jr. are attached. Gimlet also recently recruited a new chief marketing officer, Jenny Wall, who’s worked at Hulu and Netflix.


The horror podcast “Lore” has gained new listeners thanks to the TV adaptation on Amazon.

Curtis Baker/Amazon Studios

When Gimlet recorded the first season of “StartUp,” the drama of the show hinged on the financial and personal risk of establishing a podcasting company. But relatively low-cost audio shows carry less financial risk than TV and film projects.

When Gimlet produced “Homecoming,” it could land in-demand actors like Oscar Isaac and Catherine Keener because it required only a couple days of work in front of a mic. The same is true of the network’s next scripted series, its first dramedy.

“Actors are open to doing a show with us because they don’t have to put on makeup, they don’t have to put on their Spanx, they don’t have to go on location,” Mr. Lieber said. “It’s fun, interesting creative work that doesn’t require so much.” Then, when the company pivots to casting an adaptation, it helps to already have respected actors in the audio version. As Gimlet pursued Ms. Roberts for “Homecoming,” it was able to send her the podcast with Ms. Keener in the role to help prove the company’s bona fides.

Studios and networks are not only drawn to the proven storytelling a podcast provides, but they also like the built-in fan base — one that’s easier to reach and engage than, say, people who have bought a book. Tens of millions of listeners have downloaded StartUp, and “now Gimlet can go back to those people and tell them about ‘Alex, Inc.,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s great synergy.”

For podcasters, adaptations also offer the prospect of drawing even bigger audiences to the original audio show.

Aaron Mahnke of the podcast “Lore,” who now serves as executive producer and narrator of the Amazon adaptation, has seen new listeners stream in from Amazon. These days, “a story can exist in a variety of different mediums,” he said. “It all feeds itself.”

But only to a point. “When we see headlines announcing a podcast gold rush, there’s a shift in the people who bring content to the table,” Mr. Mahnke said of “Lore,” which hit the jackpot with its Amazon deal. “I’m so in love with the medium of podcasting, and I’m conscious of how we can manage this growth without burning our listeners,” he said. “My caveat is this: Don’t get into it for the money.”

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Roseanne Conner Has Become a Trump Supporter. Just Like Her Creator.

Considering that Trump opposes many of the principles that you and Roseanne Conner have stood for, how can you support him?

No, he doesn’t, I don’t think he does. I don’t think so at all. I think he voices them quite well.

I’m thinking of abortion rights, same-sex marriage rights, labor protections —

He doesn’t oppose same-sex marriage.

He doesn’t favor it. He has not come out in favor of it.

He does. Yes, he does. He has said it several times, you know, that he’s not homophobic at all.

What about labor union protections and blue collar workers, and

What do you mean, the — oh, let’s not get into this.

[A representative for Ms. Barr interjected: “You don’t have to get into it. We can move on.”]

Well, you know, it’s —

Yes, let’s do.

A question people wonder about.

Well, I think working-class people were pissed off about Clinton and NAFTA, so let’s start there. That’s what broke all the unions and we lost all our jobs, so I think that’s a large part of why they voted for Trump because they didn’t want to see it continue, where our jobs are shipped away. So, it’s more, why did people support shipping our jobs away?


Ms. Gilbert, pictured with Ms. Metcalf and Ms. Barr, is also an executive producer on the revival.


Why is Trump O.K. but Pence is objectionable, by your lights?

I think Pence is not as good as Trump, not as accepting, and not as, you know — I think that he’s way more radical.

O.K. Let’s talk about the impact “Roseanne” had as a show. I remember your same-sex kiss with Mariel Hemingway in 1994 and all the queer characters on her show. Do you think that paved the way for the L.G.B.T. characters that followed?

I don’t know. You’ll have to ask somebody else. It’s not up to me to say those things.

But you thought those were important stories at the time, right?

I wouldn’t have taken the heat that I took if I didn’t think it was an important thing to do. Just like now. I’m taking a lot of heat, and if I didn’t think that I was right and that it was important, by God, I wouldn’t be doing it.

How has America changed since the first incarnation of “Roseanne”? How has that affected the current show’s humor?

Same jokes, same kind of thing. Just trying to get through paycheck to paycheck and handle it. Having no jobs and people losing their homes and you know that never, ever being talked about on television.

How did you guys address whether to have John come back since his character Dan is dead?

I always knew how I would do it, and I wrote it. Once John was in, I thought, well, I’m going to get a chance to continue the story that I always wanted to tell.

How Should I Rewatch ‘Roseanne’?

Before the reboot arrives, revisit some of the family sitcom’s smartest, funniest and most poignant episodes.

A lot of fans are wondering, how should we regard Dan’s death?

Well, I can’t tip it. You’ll see in the first show.

A lot of people thought the last season of “Roseanne” was pretty bad. In hindsight, do you?

No. I love it. I just watched a few of them and they were really funny. It was a departure though, but once you see why, you know I think it explains it all.

How many seasons do you think the new Roseanne will continue?

We all want to keep doing it so we just hope people like it and they watch it, and it gets renewed, you know, we all want that.

Is there a new character or story line you think is kind of a trailblazer, like the show was the last time around?

I like that Darlene’s a mom now because my kids are all parents. I thought that would ring a bell with most people, my age anyway. Like what are you doing with these kids? And it’s fun to have Darlene and her kids living in the house because we really get to dissect and discuss parenting.

Do you have an arc in mind for the next season if it comes to be?

Oh, yeah, of course I do. A family grows older.

Is Dan still alive?

Oh, yeah, hopefully. Hopefully we’re all going to be alive.

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Review: On ‘Roseanne,’ Times Have Changed, but They’re Still Tough

[ Hoping to catch up on the original “Roseanne” before watching the new episodes? Here are the key episodes to stream. ]

Roseanne never became a professional writer. Neither did her daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert), who’s boomeranged back home with her two kids. Roseanne’s other daughter, Becky (Lecy Goranson), is a widow waiting tables, never having gotten a college degree. (Glenn Quinn, who had played Becky’s husband, Mark, died in 2002.)

The Conners aren’t just preserved. They’re stuck. And they’re stuck in a way that underlines the show’s original mission of representing the kind of paycheck-to-paycheck life that other, more upscale sitcoms of the era left behind.

In 1988, Roseanne and Dan were in their 30s, stretching to pay the mortgage. Now they’re in their 60s, swapping pills because their insurance doesn’t pay enough to fill all of their prescriptions. Dan lets Roseanne have all the anti-depressants: “If you’re not happy, I have no chance of being happy,” he says.

Close your eyes, and you could be listening to vintage “Roseanne.” This is good and bad. The series’s voice is intact, but the zinger-based dialogue and rhythms can feel dated.


“Roseanne” picks up the story of the Conner family more than two decades later, with, from left, Michael Fishman, Jayden Rey, Ames McNamara, Mr. Goodman, Ms. Barr and Sara Gilbert.

Adam Rose/ABC

But the beauty of the show’s language is how many feelings those zingers can communicate. The Conners use insults to express love and test old wounds. A conversation can shade from friendly chain-pulling to actual fighting and then back again.

In the first episode, the big fight is America’s big fight. Roseanne supported Donald J. Trump in 2016, as Ms. Barr vociferously did. This has alienated her from her sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), who greets her, “What’s up, deplorable?”

Roseanne’s Trumpism has alienated her from some fans too, who say it doesn’t sound like the feminist who stood up to her bosses and shot down sexist pigs. “All human beings connect sex and love,” she once told Darlene. “Except for men.”

Personally, I wouldn’t have predicted it. But I buy it. First, the election left a lot of people stunned at the choices of (actual, nonfictional) friends they thought they knew. Second, Roseanne has always been a version of Ms. Barr, reimagined in different circumstances. And finally, well, people are complicated — “weird” is the Conners’ preferred self-description — and a strength of the show has always been its refusal to put people in neat boxes.

In any case, the story line is confined to one episode of the three screened for critics. The original series rarely talked politics openly; it just lived the country’s realities in all the little ways that matter. As Ms. Barr told The Los Angeles Times in 1992: “We do it. We don’t talk it.”

The other plots are more about personal struggles — work and school, bills and pills. The Conners’ son D.J. (Michael Fishman) is back from the Army, raising his young daughter while his wife serves in Syria. (The youngest Conner son, Jerry, is off somewhere working on a fishing boat.)

Becky, meanwhile, is applying to be a surrogate mother for a well-to-do woman — played by Sarah Chalke, who took over for Ms. Goranson as Becky in the show’s original run. It’s another meta joke, yes, but with a kick: Becky is trying to better her prospects by having a baby for another, more fortunate version of herself.

In one of the stronger new stories, Darlene’s son, Mark (Ames McNamara), a spirited nine-year-old who likes to wear skirts, discovers that Lanford, Ill., is not as tolerant of daring fashion choices as his old home in Chicago. It’s a nuanced episode, pitting his grandparents’ worry for him against the Conners’ constitutional mandate to be defiantly different.

It also echoes the third-season episode “Trick or Treat,” in which Dan fretted that D.J. would get bullied for dressing as a witch for Halloween, while Roseanne went to the bar in a convincing beard and passed herself off as one of the guys. (In the end, Dan broke up a bar fight she was about to get into: “He’s my husband!”)

There’s a lot more here that recalls earlier “Roseanne,” which I mean as a compliment, but also points up a limitation of today’s many revivals. In the best-case scenario, they can approximate the original. (Ms. Metcalf and Mr. Goodman fall back into their characters seamlessly.) But they’re too wed to expectations to improve on it.

This “Roseanne” at least has reasons to exist beyond, “Why not?” One of them is the same reason it was refreshing 30 years ago: There are scant few sitcoms now about working-class families, like “The Middle,” about to end its run on ABC, and “One Day at a Time,” just renewed at Netflix.

“Roseanne” is a revival that’s willing to grapple with the time that’s passed rather than deny it. It’s feisty and funny and a little sad. And like that old couch you can’t throw out, it may just have a good year or two left in it.

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