Wow! Roseanne reads my blog! Cool! In her blog she posted a rebuttal to a piece I wrote last week about her article in New York magazine. Here’s what I wrote. And on Sunday here’s what she wrote.
It’s silly to even get into a debate. I’d say the madness and paranoia of her rant speaks for itself. My reaction to it was sadness. She’s battling enormous demons. For all of her gifts and talent, that’s a steep price to pay.
I hope someday she finds some happiness in her life.
One loose end. In her blog post she wrote this:
I took responsiblity for bad behavior, but explained that the bad behavior was during a nervous breakdown brought on by having to work in a hostile work environment, and I am pretty sure that women who have worked for you in the past (if indeed there were ANY) worked in a hostile work environment. Let me know, women writers out there--how were you treated on Ken Levine's staff?
Two women writers who worked with me and for me responded -- Robin Schiff, who was the co-creator and co-showrunner of ALMOST PERFECT with David Isaacs and I, and Linda Teverbaugh who was a producer on that show. Also, I received a note from Laurie Gelman. Not to stir the pot but she was the first woman producer of ROSEANNE season one. Her account of that first year is markedly different from Roseanne's. You decide. My thanks to Robin, Linda, and Laurie.
And again, Roseanne, you asked. Let me just conclude by saying if you're reading this in Hawaii, I wish you aloha, trade winds, and anything to bring you some peace.
From Robin Schiff:
I am a women writer who has worked with Ken Levine on three different occasions. Although he begged me to say nice things about him, I have to be honest and talk about my true experience.
Several (okay, many) years ago, I brought Ken and his partner David Isaacs an idea for a TV series. At the time, I didn’t have the experience (or cachet) to make it happen on my own. Ken and David loved the idea, which was about a strong, successful, likable, complex, opinionated woman trying to juggle a happening career with a satisfying lovelife. Not only did Ken and David get behind the fictional version of the woman, they instantly embraced the “real version” (me) as an equal and true partner. They were also my mentors, making sure I learned every aspect of producing. What they taught me was life-changing, giving me the tools to go on and have a career as one of a handful of female show runners. There are many sexist guys in the business, but Ken Levine is not one of them. The most sexist thing he ever did was blather on about baseball with the other men in the room despite the fact that I was visibly bored. Hardly grounds for a lynching.
One final thought. I totally agree with Roseanne that there is rampant sexism in the industry. A couple of weeks ago, the WGAw released its executive summary finding that (in addition to dismal stats for ethnically diverse or older writers), women comprise only 28% of working writers. We still make less money than men. All you have to do is look at the writers onstage accepting Emmys for late night talk shows and sitcoms to see that women comedy writers are on the endangered list.
That being said, it undermines the validity of a very real issue for all women anytime a woman explains away what might simply be fallout from her own actions by charging it up to sexism. Maybe Matt Williams should have given Roseanne a co-created-by credit for Roseanne. I can’t comment on that. But to say that this was because she was a woman doesn’t hold water since Matt Williams also took a sole created by credit on Home Improvement – which was based on Tim Allen’s stand-up act. I empathize with how unfairly Roseanne feels she was treated. But sexist? I would love to know how many female executive producers Roseanne employed on her own show. Did she foster talented women writers and empower them to become showrunners like Ken Levine and David Isaacs did with me? Just wondering…
From Linda Teverbaugh:
I hate to say it, being a great admirer of "Roseanne," the series (much of it, anyway), but Roseanne, the person, is talking out of her own asshat. She's right about one thing: She did hire standup friends as writers on the series. Tom Arnold's buddies, too. I know this because I'm a female writer from a blue-collar family who got screwed out of a job as a result. Thank you, Sister Woman. It was, however, my great good fortune to work for Ken shortly thereafter. Ken doesn't share Roseanne's fixation on "getting credit," so he'd never bring this up. But too bad, Ken, I'm going to: While Roseanne was literally farting on table drafts, throwing out scripts left and right, and as a consequence, holding all the writers' lives hostage, Ken busted his ass to keep the "Almost Perfect" room running efficiently, which meant keeping peace with the stage, the studio, the network, and all the other havoc makers who make sitcom hours exhausting or impossible. As far as I know he did not do this by threatening anyone with scissors. Instead, he made it possible for this working mother to leave work when the Paramount day-care center closed for the day, take my toddler son home and give him dinner. It meant the world to me, and, of all the female sitcom writers I know with kids, I'm one of the rare ones who ever got support like that. Sorry Roseanne, but that's fucking feminism.
And by the way, if Roseanne wanted "created by" credit, she needed to sit down with Matt Williams and help break and write the story for the pilot. That's what Drew Carey did with Bruce Helford.
And finally, from Laurie Gelman:
It didn’t take long for me to get a taste of the staggering sexism and class bigotry that would make the first season of Roseanne god-awful.
This makes me laugh every time I read it. I don’t know how she defines sexism, but she is one of the biggest perpetrators I have ever met. I was the first female writer producer on Roseanne and she absolutely refused to acknowledge me -- on stage or in the room. No eye contact. Nothing. She’s one of these women ( and I’m sure lots of your female writer friends can relate to this type) who likes to be the only woman in the room and play up to all the men. I was actually astounded by this because I expected her to be just the opposite. Now if you were below the line and kissing her tuchas to keep your job, you may have gotten another one of her many personalities, but this is a woman who is definitely threatened by smart, funny women and has to alpha dog all competitors. By the way, if the first season was so god-awful, how did we make it to number 1?
It was at the premiere party when I learned that my stories and ideas—and the
ideas of my sister and my first husband, Bill—had been stolen.
Really???? People actually broke into their minds and took them???? I was on the show from the rewriting of the pilot in New York all the way through the first season. There was never any point where Matt Williams did not include Roseanne in the creative process and actually want her input. In fact, I have never worked with an EP more inclusive or fair ( or nicer) than Matt Williams. He bent over backwards to please her. We made it a point to bring her into the room and get her take on every idea before we laid out the stories. Obviously, we also accommodated her notes on all the drafts. Additionally, Matt permitted her husband Bill Pentland to sit in on all the rewrite tables, thus giving her additional insurance that the Roseanne take on things was being adequately addressed.
The pilot was screened, and I saw the opening credits for the first time, which included this: CREATED BY MATT WILLIAMS. I was devastated and felt so betrayed that I stood up and left the party.
Great. More food for us.