By Aurthur, Kate
Newsweek , Vol. 158, No. 03
Byline: Kate Aurthur
The comedian is back with a reality series that reveals how life on a Hawaiian nut farm made her sane.
Roseanne Barr is crying. She's talking about how her five children--the 40-year-old daughter she gave up for adoption when she was 18; the three kids from her first marriage; the son, Buck, she had at 43--have each turned out OK, despite her own, all-too-public travails. "All my kids, they suffered a lot," Barr says. "The best thing to me is when people at Buck's school say, 'You know, your son is so wonderful.'"
Barr cries harder and wipes her eyes. "All my kids and grandkids, they're decent. Despite all of it. And that's, like, man, that's a big victory for me. When I look in the mirror or whatever, I'm like, whew--dodged a big f--king bullet there ... Thank God, Allah, Buddha, Jesus. Everybody." She composes herself, sniffles, and looks up, brightening. "That's a good ending!"
Actually, it's a beginning of sorts. The 58-year-old comedian is launching a 16-episode reality series, Roseanne's Nuts, on Lifetime this Wednesday, marking her return to TV after an extended hiatus. The series follows Roseanne's life on a macadamia-nut farm in Hawaii, where she now lives with her boyfriend of eight years, Johnny Argent, and 15-year-old Buck. Barr describes Roseanne's Nuts as "Larry David meets reality." Meaning it's not reality? "It's based in reality," she says. "But it's funny. It's not the Kardashians."
Barr has dabbled in this genre before--with disastrous results. In 2003 ABC's The Real Roseanne purported to follow the star's attempt to create a cooking and lifestyle show that she would then do for ABC Family. But Barr ended up bailing on both projects; The Real Roseanne aired for only two weeks. She now says she thought the reality show would spotlight her personal transformation from the tantrum-throwing star she'd been during the height of her eponymous sitcom. "Now that I knew how to meditate and had become a calmer, nicer person, was I going to be able to make a successful show?" she says of the premise. But Barr says the executive producer, R. J. Cutler, had other ideas. "The show he was doing was kind of The Osbournes."
Barr claims that Cutler "hired actors to be the producers, and they were told to really go out of their way to piss me off and see me explode." On top of that, she says her eldest son, Jake Pentland, found a notebook in the production office that contained unflattering, one-dimensional descriptions of her family and Argent. "It said: Jake, 'lazy'; my son-in-law Jeff, 'stupid'; Roseanne, 'drunk'; Johnny, 'golddigger,'" Barr says. "Thank God I had control. Because, kibosh." (Cutler responded by email to the two allegations: "1. False--I don't know anything about this notebook. 2. False--no actors were hired to pretend to be producers or to harm Ms. Barr in any way.")
To ensure that the plug was pulled on The Real Roseanne, Barr opted for something radical: she decided to have a somewhat optional hysterectomy, and the public story was that she'd bowed out for medical reasons. "I always say I had to choose between giving up an organ or continuing on that reality show. So I chose to give up an organ."
So why would Barr agree to broadcast her life again? "Roseanne is by far the biggest star to ever do a reality show," says Rob Sharenow, Lifetime's executive vice president of programming. "She is not a D-lister desperate for fame or looking to make a quick buck."
No, she's not desperate, and she certainly doesn't need the bucks, having pulled in $1 million per Roseanne episode for years, along with healthy residuals ever since. Rather, this is the year that Barr has started to peek out from behind the wall she built around herself and Buck in an attempt to normalize their lives. …