ABC has several upcoming changes to the network as it steadies itself following a rocky year with Kenya Barris and infighting over creative differences with Blackish, and severing ties with Roseanne Barr after her racist tweets.
ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey spoke to Variety about what’s to come for the network with the 20th Century Fox merger, Barris decision to leave ABC Studios and the inclusion of the Conners – a new show that won’t inlcude Barr.
Barris, the man behind the hit ABC sitcom Black-ish has officially left ABC Studios, and the network’s decision to ban an episode centered around the NFL’s protests against police brutality could be at the root of it.
Dunning said, however, Barris will maintain a broader connection to the network.
“First of all, Kenya’s broader relationship with the Disney-ABC Television Group goes on, because he still is very involved in “Black-ish,” he has “Grown-ish,” he has a new show, “Besties.” she said.
“So there still is an ongoing dynamic with Kenya. I think creatively for writers there is a cycle and I think part of what happened for Kenya, outside of this episode — because with this episode, we had all been excited to have this one stand alongside episodes like “Lemons” and “Juneteenth,” and ultimately we all felt, Kenya, the studio, the network, that we hadn’t got to this place creatively where we were telling the story in a way that felt like it could stand alongside those, so the decision was made to shelve it. I think, and you would have to speak to him directly, he had come to a place creatively where creatively he wanted to do some things outside of what broadcast allows you to do, where you don’t have to worry about act breaks, and you don’t have to worry about standards and practices, and I understand that.”
But when asked if Dunning had conversations with 20th Century Fox about the upcoming season since the business relations is about to change, she said not just yet.
“We haven’t. There are a lot of very specific regulations about how you can engage. So for the moment, we’ve just been looking at 20th the same way we’ve been looking at Warners and Sony and our other outside partners. I will say that their team has come in really hot. They were aggressive, they’ve got a lot of great material, so that’s been exciting to see.”
Dunning who fired Roseanne Barr after calling Obama Advisor Valerie Jarrett an “ape” said the network was aware she had a tendency to use racist terms but Barr said she ready for a new beginning.
“We spoke with Roseanne and the producers at the beginning about her past history with the understanding that she came into this with a desire to share some very important stories, to shine a light on a part of the country that hadn’t had a spotlight on it in a while, and she was very much saying that she was aware of her behavior in the past and was very much looking forward to starting with a clean slate here. I am a believer in second chances, and we all felt like we were going to put our best foot forward and hope for a good result. And it did not end up that way,” Dunning said.
ABC greenlit The Conners, a 10-episode spinoff that will feature the same family (minus Barr) and premiere in the fall.
“We were very clear about the fact that if we were going to move forward, Roseanne Barr would need to have no involvement with the show. We were able to come to a place where everybody felt comfortable and good about that. But with the specifics as to the conversations that were held between Roseanne and Tom (Werner) you would have to ask him.”