Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Saturday Nights with Roseanne

Stung by its embarrassing and expensive late night failure with Chevy Chase, Fox was eager to get something going on late nights. Saturday Night Live was coming off a lackluster season and almost found itself completely canceled. NBC had insisted that Lorne Michaels fire nearly everyone and retool if he wanted the show to continue. Fox saw an opening, but instead of choosing one potential comedy show, it chose to put two into production. The first show it considered had built in name recognition. Based on the famed satirical magazine, Mad TV would get the first shot at taking down Saturday Night Live.

The most 1990's picture you'll ever see outside of Friends.

The show would make great inroads against SNL. Since FOX was able to clear an 11-Midnight time slot, viewers could sample a full half-hour of the show before SNL even started. Successful but not quite a knockout punch, FOX chose to give its other show a shot- Roseanne Barr's Saturday Night Special.


In the mid-1990's, Roseanne Barr could pretty much do anything she wanted. Flush with success and cash from her eponymous sitcom, anyone and everyone in Hollywood would drop everything to speak with her about anything she liked. And in 1996, Roseanne Barr liked sketch comedy. Featuring future standouts Jennifer Coolidge and Kathy Griffin, the show was hyped by Roseanne as being an SNL killer. It wouldn't live up to Roseanne's lofty claims; in fact, it wouldn't live up to Mad TV. By the end of the season the choice was clear. FOX would renew Mad TV and cancel Roseanne Barr's Saturday Night Special. Roseanne Barr's show, which she insisted would kill SNL actually had the opposite effect; Mad TV would not be able to maintain the momentum it was building before Roseanne's show took over its spot. Lorne was able to comfortably rebuild without Mad TV nipping at its heels for the second half of the season.