While nostalgia was expected to bring in eyeballs, no one predicted such a huge turnout on premiere night for the blue-collar family sitcom with a Donald Trump-supporting protagonist, especially among the younger demographic.
Both Trump and Roseanne were able to tap into the often overlooked and underserved working-class audience. Not surprisingly, the top TV markets where Roseanne delivered its highest ratings were in states handily carried by Trump in the election. No. 1 was Tulsa in Oklahoma, which Trump won with 65.3% of the vote. It was followed by Cincinnati, Ohio and Kansas City, Missouri. The only marquee city from a blue state in the Top 10 was Chicago at No. 5 — the area where the series is set.
The top market of the country, New York, was not in the Top 20; No.2 Los Angeles was not in the Top 30. And yet, Roseanne delivered the highest demo rating for any comedy telecast in 3 1/2 years, since the fall 2014 season premiere of TV’s biggest comedy series of the past five years, The Big Bang Theory.
There no doubt was an element of nostalgia and curiosity about how the characters from the original series have changed and about the new generation of the Conners. But Roseanne went beyond that. Its youngest 18-49 viewers when the series originally aired on ABC from 1988-97 are now at the very top or outside of that ad-friendly demographic range, in which last night’s premiere posted a staggering 5.2 Live+same day rating with no lead-in. It came largely from new viewers who were children or not even born during Roseanne‘s initial run.
Meanwhile, if Roseanne continues to be a ratings juggernaut, ABC, which is close to renewing the revival for a second season, should look into bringing back its other big blue-collar sitcom hit of the 1990s, Home Improvement, which starred another open Trump sympathizer, Tim Allen.
ABC was strongly criticized by the right in May when it canceled Allen’s long-running sitcom Last Man Standing despite its strong viewership. It was a rare broadcast comedy with a central character who is a political conservative and devout Christian adhering to traditional American values that appeals to viewers in the Heartland.