Arnold, 59, worked on the original dramedy as a writer and producer before he was fired in 1994 by series star and ex-wife Roseanne Barr, whom he divorced the same year (they were married from 1990-94).
Despite his split — and firing — from Barr more than two decades ago, Arnold sat down and reviewed the reboot, which will premiere Tuesday evening featuring original cast members Barr, John Goodman, Michael Fishman, Sara Gilbert and Laurie Metcalf, for The Hollywood Reporter.
“When THR asked me to review the new Roseanne reboot, I promised objectivity. But, of course, I’d been the audience warm-up guy for the Roseanne pilot in 1988 and worked my way up on the show from writer to producer. In fact, by the time Roseanne fired me in 1994 — destroying the trophy case in my office, canceling my credit cards and promising I’d never work in show business again — I’d been executive producing and playing Arnie for a few years. So you can see why these delightful memories would make it hard not to be prejudiced,” he begins his review, published Monday.
Arnold shares that when he learned via Twitter that a revival was in the works, he was both happy and hesitant.
“I was happy for Roseanne and the other actors, but I also knew the new show’s success would rest on one thing: Who will Roseanne Conner be in 2018? Because today’s Roseanne Barr is more polarizing than ever. No longer a feminist-pacifist voice for the working folks, she’s now a far-right Trump-loving troll who’s gone hard against liberals and Hillary supporters and even #MeToo women,” he writes about Barr, who is a supporter of President Donald Trump. “That is not the Roseanne Barr I knew, but that’s OK so long as that’s not the Roseanne Conner she brings back to TV.”
After accepting the assignment for THR, Arnold discovered that “Dan (Goodman) is alive”; “Darlene is grown up, living at home and unemployed. Roseanne and Dan are older and take a lot of meds,” and “Darlene’s gender-fluid son, Mark, played by Ames McNamara, will definitely be dealing.”
Also returning is Metcalf, whom Arnold praises in his piece as “a tour de force” and admits “to Laurie Metcalf superfandom, personally and professionally. One night while partying during pilot week in 1988, Roseanne, who was in the front seat with Goodman, noticed me holding Laurie’s hand in back. The next morning she called me into her office and told me, ‘Writers cannot date actors. That’s a rule of show business.’ Who was I to break a rule of show business? Never mind that Roseanne and I got married two years later (and lasted four),” he writes. “[Laurie] could carry this show. She could carry every show ever.”
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Ultimately, although Arnold doesn’t see eye-to-eye with 65-year-old Barr’s politics, he recommends that fans watch the pilot.
“Bottom line: If you want to watch a show because it’s the voice of your political point of view, right or left, do not watch the Roseanne reboot. You’ll be disappointed. But if you’re a fan of the original Roseanne, especially the glory years — you know, the ‘Tom Arnold years’ — this is as good as it’s going to get,” he says. “Roseanne has done everything from pulling my hair transplants immediately after surgery to saying I had a 3-inch penis on SNL, so I figure if I can give the show another shot, maybe other people could too.”
He concludes the piece with a dig at Trump — and his ex-wife for being a supporter of the controversial president.
“I can also forgive Roseanne Conner voting for Trump in 2016. I bet if you’re a Midwest housewife, he might’ve come across on TV like he really had your back. But Roseanne Barr knew Donald Trump personally for 30 years and saw how he treated women. She even did business with him,” he writes. “I’m not surprised by anything Trump does, but Roseanne Barr made $200 million off Roseanne Conner, so I’m a little disappointed she doesn’t have her back.”
Roseanne premieres Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.