In a somewhat stunning move, the week of April 9 saw an episode of the Roseanne revival beat the season finale of former ratings giant The Walking Dead.
The post-apocalyptic zombie series has been declining in the ratings since season 7, when it introduced the divisive villain Negan, and has continued to decline throughout season 8. Even the shocking death of Carl, one of the main characters, failed to help much with its numbers, and the final episode was the lowest season finale of the series, with 9.81 million viewers (3.4 million in the key 18-49 demographic).
Meanwhile, Roseanne has been going strong. Its premiere on March 27 was the highest-rating sitcom episode in three years, and its April 10 episode “Eggs Over, Not Easy” scored 13.77 million, with 3.5 million in the key demographic. This is especially notable because it airs on ABC, and the general belief is that network shows always fare badly compared to what’s on cable.
Its slim win in the 18-49 demographic is particularly surprising; the show, which originally aired from 1988 until 1997, is obviously nostalgic to many, but apparently a good number of younger viewers are turning in too.
While The Walking Dead finale was obviously dramatic, bringing an end to the “All Out War” arc while teasing conflict between Rick and Maggie; Roseanne, meanwhile, pulled off a dramatic move itself. In the episode, Roseanne’s daughter Becky was intending to become a surrogate mom, but instead found out that she was infertile. Her resulting depression also forces her to confront the fact that she never moved on from the death of her husband Mark, absent from the new season due to the real-life death of his actor, Glenn Quinn, back in 2002.