Two unmistakable trends have plagued television in the Trump era.
The first is that the election of President Trump so incensed coastal elites in Hollywood and New York that it now seems that everything on television – from ad campaigns to the tone of cable news to the very content of TV shows themselves – is tinged with self-righteous anti-Trump political messaging and obviously forced virtue signaling.
The second trend is a direct result of the first: the hard-left television turn has alienated large swaths of everyday audiences. Today, a whopping 75% of Americans say that they watch television to get away from politics. But Hollywood's insistence on blasting American audiences with liberal messaging has only intensified, creating a disconnect that's led to an across-the-board ratings downturn, leaving television and advertising executives wondering how to best reconnect with American audiences and win back their attention.
One television show is bucking this trend:
Those are just some of the headlines that broke last week describing the massive and unanticipated ratings success of ABC's revival of the blue-collar every-family sitcom "Roseanne." The show, which details the everyday exploits of the fictional but all-too-real working-class, Midwestern Conner family, was praised in its heyday for its realistic depiction of working-class life, and returned to network television last week to jaw-dropping ratings.
Once again, the preferences of working-class Americans are giving a great deal of badly needed shock therapy to blue-state coastal elites – and offering them a blueprint for how to best reconnect with everyday Americans in this age of politically oversaturated content.
While "Roseanne" doesn't run from politics – like millions of Americans, the show's lead character is a self-identifying Trump supporter – it doesn't condescend to audiences or lecture them about why their values or beliefs are wrong. Unlike the self-congratulatory liberal speeches of the Oscars, which led to their lowest ratings in history this year, the political commentary in "Roseanne" is secondary to the family values and warmhearted comedy at the center of the show. The Conner family really does come across as an everyday American family, and no matter their political beliefs, the show treats them with respect and love.
That can hardly be said for the other politically charged content audiences to which audiences are subjected these days.
As they prepared for the 'Roseanne" reboot, ABC wisely advertised the Conners as a "family that looks like us [and] lives like us," and the network successfully delivered a television revival that feels like us. The show's heart-on-the-sleeve Midwestern working-class values and warm, funny, family-centered message proved irresistible once again to American audiences, more than 20 years after the show ended its initial run in 1997.
Interestingly, this resonated not only with the broad swath of middle-America swing voters who helped propel Donald Trump to the presidency, but with coastal audiences as well. When compared with the premiere of the "Will and Grace" revival, a nakedly anti-conservative program, the ratings for "Roseanne" blew them out of the water in cities such as New York and Los Angeles. This incredible success is expected to drive up the show's already strong advertising rates.
Producers, programmers and advertisers stand to gain from ABC's breakthrough by following their lead, toning down the liberal virtue signaling and focusing on producing content that connects with audiences' hearts. Just because everything seems political these days doesn't necessarily mean everything should be political, and in an era of pervasive politicization, advertisers have a real opportunity to reconnect with audiences by respecting their values and leaving their liberal politics out of it.