Trump rushes to embrace 'Roseanne' success

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoint Chiefs chairman denies report that US is planning to keep 1K troops in Syria Kansas Department of Transportation calls Trump 'delusional communist' on Twitter Trump has privately voiced skepticism about driverless cars: report MORE is embracing comedian Roseanne Barr, whose rebooted television show is a surprise hit that’s being hailed by the media for its portrayal of a working-class family in the Trump era.

On Wednesday night, the president phoned Barr — a Trump supporter who also plays one on TV — to congratulate her on her titular show’s success. 

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In a Thursday interview on “Good Morning America,” Barr described the president’s phone call as a “sweet” gesture from an old friend and laughingly detailed Trump’s fixation on ratings.

The “Roseanne” debut on ABC pulled in more than 18 million viewers, making it the most successful comedy launch in four years. The rebooted debut eclipsed viewership for the show’s 1997 finale.

For Trump, the show represented a rare opportunity to tie himself to a piece of popular entertainment. 

“Look at her ratings,” Trump said Thursday during a speech in Ohio meant to promote his infrastructure plan. “They were unbelievable, over 18 million people and it was about us. … The fake news hasn’t figured it out yet … and when they do, they’ll become much less fake. It may take a while, but it’s happening.”

Conservatives have fumed at what they describe as an endless stream of hostility from Hollywood and the mainstream media. Those frustrations have been underscored by award shows and late-night comedy, where hosts and anchors grab headlines with viral insults directed at the administration.

But television critics have also noted the broader political and cultural implications of a show that centers on a blue-collar family from the Midwest. 

An analysis by the trade industry publication Deadline found that “Roseanne” barely registered with viewers in New York City or Los Angeles, the nation’s largest media markets. Instead, most viewers tuned in from the heartland, in cities like Tulsa, Cincinnati and Kansas City.

That phenomenon mirrored Trump’s election victories in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan — the first in a generation for a Republican candidate — which propelled him into the White House and provoked soul-searching among the media and political class about whether they had fallen out of touch with ordinary Americans.

“Of course the president was smart to hitch himself to the show after it blew up,” said Armstrong Williams, the largest owner from a minority group of broadcast television stations in America.

“But he’s also embracing it because there are so few media platforms out there that bring balance and respect to the people he appeals to. ‘Roseanne’ is a show that looks at politics and the economic struggles of average Americans through the eyes of someone who is transparent in their beliefs and, like the president, is uncomplicated. That there’s a huge market for this should be a gut-check for Hollywood and the mainstream media.”

The first episode of the new show highlighted Barr’s support for Trump, punctuated with a her dinner table prayer in which she thanked the Lord for “making America great again.”

In that episode, Barr clashes with her sister, played by Laurie Metcalf, who portrays a supporter Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonGOP lawmaker defends Chelsea Clinton after confrontation over New Zealand attacks Klobuchar: Race, gender should not be litmus tests for 2020 Dem nominee Kirsten Gillibrand officially announces White House run MORE and dresses in a “Nasty Woman” T-shirt and pink beanie from the Women’s March. Metcalf calls Barr’s character “deplorable” and asks her how she could support someone like Trump.

“He talked about jobs, he said he’d shake things up,” Barr says on the show. “I mean, this might come as a complete shock to you, but we almost lost our house, the way things are going.”

“Have you looked on the news?” Metcalf responds. “Because now things are worse.”

“Not on the real news,” Barr shoots back.

The comedian has defended Trump as part of her media tour for the show, which included an appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Kimmel’s show — which is also on ABC — has exploded in popularity since he became a vocal critic of the president and of Republican policies.

“I’m shocked because I know you are a very socially liberal person in general,” Kimmel said to Barr in an interview this week.

“I’m still the same. You all moved [too far to the left],” Barr responded.

A survey from the polling outlet Morning Consult — conducted shortly before the “Roseanne” debut — found that 59 percent of Republicans were more likely to watch the show because of Barr’s support for Trump. The survey also found that many conservatives feel as if their views are not represented in popular culture.

The “Roseanne” reboot was trumpeted across conservative media, with the influential news aggregator Matt Drudge plastering the headline “Roseanne Boom stuns Hollywood,
Prompts Soul-Searching” across his website.

Conservative opinion writer John Podhoretz wrote at the New York Post that the show’s success means “Hollywood is now faced with indisputable evidence that there’s a huge potential audience out there for programs that don’t actively insult 63 million Trump voters.”

Still, not all conservatives were equally energized.

“Roseanne” isn’t expected to be solely a meditation on pro-Trump politics. Future episodes will look at the high costs of health care, gun ownership and LGBT issues, among other things.

Some conservatives blasted the show as a liberal characterization of what a heartland Trump supporter might look like.

The first episode focuses on Barr’s grandson, who in the show likes to dress like a girl.

Ben Shapiro, the massively popular conservative writer and speaker, blasted the show in a series of tweets, saying it “recasts Trump voters as social Leftists who just disagree about economics.” Shapiro is an opinion contributor for The Hill.

“The whole premise of ‘Roseanne’ is that this pro-abortion, pro-LGBT woman who is happy to watch her grandson wear girls' clothing voted Trump — because she's blue collar,” Shapiro writes. “That isn't an accurate depiction of Trump voters. It's actually a Hollywood fantasy of what Trump voters are: people who agree with Hollywood elites on values, but just disagree on economics because they're old white factory workers.”

And DePauw University media professor Jeffrey McCaul expressed frustration with the president for plunging into the culture wars at a time when many people are exhausted by the creeping politicization of everything.

“Obama also liked to weight in on pop culture trends and fads,” McCaul said. “I just think Trump should have enough to do without taking time from his schedule to call Roseanne on the phone.”