“The Roseanne Show” premieres on Monday (times vary among stations), ending an intensely secretive preproduction period. That secrecy is an impressive feat, considering that the show’s host isn’t known for keeping her mouth shut. No pilot was shown to the press (the first episode was to be shot late Friday afternoon), and the only description Roseanne has given is the vague directive that the series will incorporate interviews, serious discussions, and comedy.
“There’s no doubt in my mind that Monday’s ratings are going to be good,” says Marc Berman, who analyzes ratings for the ad-buying service Seltel. “But the question is, will the viewers come back for more on Tuesday?” As an example of fickle viewers, he points to Howard Stern’s CBS show, which debuted August 22 with an impressive 2.7 rating, and the next week slipped to a 1.9.
Roseanne has said that she will present something completely different from day to day — for example, sometimes she’ll do sketches, sometimes not — but such a random mix might not be habit-forming. “Viewers tune into shows that they’re familiar and comfortable with,” says Berman. “When you watch Oprah or Jerry Springer, you know what you’re getting. If people don’t know what they’re tuning in to, they’re not going to stick with it.”
Part of Roseanne’s appeal, however, has always been her unpredictability. “Sure, when you show up for dinner, you want to have a sense of what you’re going to be served,” agrees Bill Carroll, director of programming for Katz-TV, which advises local stations on scheduling. “But it’s often interesting to eat international cuisine and try something different. Plus, you know you have a master chef preparing the meal.” Roseanne, take note: Next time, try a cooking show.