Bless this Familiar Premise

It’s been almost a year since Roseanne Barr posted an overtly racist insult mocking the appearance of a former senior advisor of Barack Obama. In quick reaction, ABC canceled her show and figured out a way to rework it without the titular character and lead star. The network president called her tweet, “abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values.” It took nine original seasons and one revived return to television for a Hollywood executive to finally put words to the reason my parents wouldn’t allow me to watch the show when I was a kid.

My folks were never fond of Roseanne. They considered her to be rude, crass, brash, obnoxious, and generally offensive. Her show was banned in our house. My dad’s distaste for Barr’s brand of humor was solidified in July of 1990 when she belted out a screeching and intentionally off key rendition of the National Anthem before an MLB game. Between the worst performance of the Star Spangled Banner, the off color television show, and Rosanne’s irreverent personal persona, “abhorrent and repugnant” are the two most suitable words to describe what my family thought of Roseanne Barr.

Yet somehow, I understand the show’s popularity. Comedy tends to skew toward liberal perspectives and Roseanne stood in contrast with a blue collar family and conservative politics. It demonstrated a cohesive (even if dysfunctional) family in a world dominated by broken homes. As the faces and themes of prime-time sitcoms grew more diverse, white America felt like they were losing their dominant place in society. ABC saw a hole shaped like low brow, working class, grumpy white dudes and they filled it with Roseanne. After all, pop culture abhors a vacuum. In the fallout of Barr’s tweet and the show’s cancellation, I was inspired. So I took to Roseanne’s favorite medium and pitched my idea for a new show.

My unsolicited pitch linked to a post I wrote about adjusting to life on the farm and how this phase of my life would be fantastic entertainment if turned into a TV show. As a nerd from the Seattle suburbs, my story is a fish out of water tale that is perfect fodder for a sitcom.

I must be a prophet. Nearly a year later, it seems ABC was listening. They followed my advice. A couple weeks ago, they debuted a new show called Bless This Mess. Consider the official synopsis and compare it to my year-old tweet.

Newlyweds Rio and Mike make the decision to change the course of their life together and move from the relentless pace of big city New York to what they think will be a more relaxed existence in rural Nebraska. After dropping everything --including their jobs and an overbearing mother-in-law -- to make the move from skyscrapers to farmhouses, they soon realize that the simpler life isn't as easy as they had planned. Rio and Mike must now learn how to weather the storm as they are faced with unexpected challenges in their new lives as farmers.

Hmmmm. I suggested a liberal nerd be the main character. Rio is a therapist and Mike is a music journalist. I suggested they move into Trump country. Mike and Rio moved from NYC to small-town Nebraska – a state where Trump won 60% of the popular vote. I suggested they start a family farm. Mike and Rio inherited a farm.

image courtesy of ABC Studios

Theft of my intellectual property? Maybe. I pitched the idea several months before the show went into production. Regardless, I’m impressed with the end result. The first episodes had me laughing out loud several times. Sharp and witty writing with situations so familiar to my current circumstances. I can relate to Dax Shepard’s role of Mike. In the series premiere, Mike admits to his wife, “I want to be the man who can fix a roof. I do. But I don’t think I am.” I’m pretty sure I’ve said something similar to Annie over the past year – perhaps about fences or animal shelters. Rio’s response in the show was perfect; she teased Mike’s pronunciation of “roof” just like Annie makes fun of the way I pronounce “root beer.” Bless This Mess is probably the closest I’ll ever be to seeing a famous actor playing me on TV.

Even if show creators Lake Bell and Elizabeth Meriwether didn’t steal the idea from me, it feels as if they studied my life with Annie at our farm as inspiration for their scripts. If ABC wants to send me any royalty money I won’t complain. And if they ever need some advisers to help brainstorm plots for future episodes, I’m available for hire.

No comments:

Post a Comment