Arnold, now with CBS, continues to throw his wife's weight around

TURNED ON IN L.A. -- Spring Preview

January 13, 1994|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,Television Critic

Talks start today to determine whether "Roseanne" stays with ABC.

But, whether the show stays or not, Roseanne and Tom Arnold are committed to keeping the hit sitcom alive "for a few more years."

That was the message yesterday from Tom Arnold.

He met with TV critics to promote his new sitcom on CBS, "Tom," which will premiere March 2. But first, he had to deal with questions about the future of ABC's "Roseanne," which he produces with his wife. "Roseanne" is currently the third highest rated show on prime-time TV behind CBS' "60 Minutes" and ABC's "Home Improvement."

"It's early in the negotiations, so it would be inappropriate for me to say anything now, except that the ball is definitely in ABC's court," Arnold said.

If that sounds unusually diplomatic for Arnold, that's because it is. He was generally more mellow than he has been in previous sessions with the press.

The subtext to the talks provides the drama. It includes the fact that ABC canceled "The Jackie Thomas Show" last spring, and bTC that an angry Tom and Roseanne Arnold responded by saying they didn't want to work for ABC any more.

Tom Arnold immediately signed with CBS to do "Tom." The speculation was that "Roseanne" would also move from ABC to CBS at the first opportunity. The window is opening with these talks -- though, ABC has first rights to match any offer.

CBS, smarting from its loss of the NFL, could do with a coup like getting "Roseanne" at almost any price.

Arnold indicated that no matter which network wound up with the show, the deal would be for three more years or 75 episodes.

He closed off further discussion on "Roseanne" by saying, "Any decision will be made jointly [between the Arnolds and the Carsey-Werner production company that owns the show]. We want to work together for a few more years.

"We have this great show, which is probably better than anything any of us will ever do, and we want to keep it going."

As for his new show, "Tom," it's not bad at all. It stars Arnold as a welder with a wife and five kids living on a patch of land in Iowa that he hopes to farm.

While the pilot is far from perfect, it manages to capture some of the edgy, blue-collar humor that powers "Roseanne." The ability to connect with a working-class sensibility could make "Tom" a ratings winner.

Arnold says "Tom" succeeds in that respect because it's based on reality. "I know people like that because I've been there," Arnold said,reminding his audience that he worked in a meat-packing plant in Iowa before coming to Hollywood as a stand-up comic and that he and Roseanne have a farm in Iowa.

"I know what it's like. . . . I know guys from the meat-packing plant and talk to some of them when we go back," Arnold said.

"I was making $13 an hour when I worked in the plant 10 years ago. And, now, they got rid of the unions, and the same guys are making the same hams and doing the same stuff, and they're only making about $7.50 or $8 an hour.

"I mean, with inflation and so forth, that's a heck of a [bad] deal. All these guys have to have two jobs. . . . That's some of what 'Tom' is going to be talking about."

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