The Conversation: The politics of the US family sitcom, and why Roseanne rocks

After a 20-year hiatus, the American TV series Roseanne has returned to television. Early indications suggest that the reboot will be an enormous success, with the first episodes delivering the highest ratings for an American television series since 2014.

Roseanne’s audience numbers are even more striking when they are divided along geographical lines. The premiere failed to break into the top 20 shows in New York or the top 30 in Los Angeles – America’s two biggest markets – but it topped the ratings in many of the fly-over states of middle America. Since then, Roseanne has continued to dominate its timeslot.

In terms of genre, Roseanne is what Horace Newcomb in his seminal TV: The Most Popular Art defined as a domestic comedy. In contrast to situation comedies that tend to focus on physical comedy and farcical situations – like Seinfeld (1989-1998) and 30 Rock (2006-2013) – domestic comedies focus on family life and interpersonal problems that are ultimately resolved through talking.

After a 20-year hiatus, the American TV series Roseanne has returned to television. Early indications suggest that the reboot will be an enormous success, with the first episodes delivering the highest ratings for an American television series since 2014.

Roseanne’s audience numbers are even more striking when they are divided along geographical lines. The premiere failed to break into the top 20 shows in New York or the top 30 in Los Angeles – America’s two biggest markets – but it topped the ratings in many of the fly-over states of middle America. Since then, Roseanne has continued to dominate its timeslot.

In terms of genre, Roseanne is what Horace Newcomb in his seminal TV: The Most Popular Art defined as a domestic comedy. In contrast to situation comedies that tend to focus on physical comedy and farcical situations – like Seinfeld (1989-1998) and 30 Rock (2006-2013) – domestic comedies focus on family life and interpersonal problems that are ultimately resolved through talking.

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