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Roseanne

By Bret Fetzer

Roseanne burst onto the screen in 1988, when top-rated sitcom The Cosby Show exuded a smug Father Knows Best glossiness. In contrast, the blue-collar Conner family bickered with the offhand nastiness of real families, which didn't mean they loved each other any less. Front and center was Roseanne Barr (now known by the single name Roseanne), a former stand-up comedian who wasn't afraid to rock the boat (her fights with producers were legendary).

When even the fat guys on sitcoms have svelte, hottie wives, it's hard to believe that this woman--overweight, abrasive, with a voice like a wood chipper--became top of the television heap. Roseanne spoke up for a kind of lower-class feminism; she didn't concern herself much with politics, but within the family she just as much in charge as her husband Dan (the ever-dependable John Goodman, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski)--though in the final episode of the first season, she took a stand at her factory job that was half Norma Rae, half Cool Hand Luke. But most often the show turned the ordinary rituals of domestic life (putting the kids to bed, coping with visiting parents) into sharp comic scenarios. The stories were smartly hidden in a series of scenes that felt organic and unforced. The entire cast--one of the best ensembles ever, including theater veteran Laurie Metcalf (Scream 2) as Roseanne's sister Jackie; Lecy Goranson as eldest daughter Becky; Michael Fishman as youngest child D.J.; and especially Sara Gilbert (Poison Ivy, ER) as middle daughter Darlene--swiftly cultivated the mixture of comfort and tension that marks most family relationships. The result was a portrait of American family life that rang achingly, hilariously true.

Roseanne's first season was solid from the start; few shows have had such an immediate grasp of their ideal tone and rhythm. Roseanne may have been a little stiff in the first few episodes, but she developed her chops quickly. By only the third episode, in which Roseanne and Dan run into a divorced friend at a restaurant and do some impromptu evaluating of their own married life, Roseanne was already exploring the psychology behind the wisecracks. By episode 6, set in a bowling alley, Roseanne begins to truly inhabit her character, growing more physically and emotionally expansive (she herself singles out this episode as the one where she started to have fun).

Roseanne was never afraid to share the spotlight; Goodman, Metcalf, and the kids all had central roles in one episode or another, and one of the most striking episodes focused on Roseanne's coworker Crystal (the underrated Natalie West), whose husband had been embedded in concrete while working on a bridge. This black comic premise gave way to surprisingly touching grief when old secrets emerged. Guest performers like George Clooney (a semi-regular in the first season), Ned Beatty (as Dan's father), Estelle Parsons (an insidious turn as Roseanne's mother), and Fred Thompson (as a domineering supervisor) always had meaty material to work with. Simply one of the best sitcoms of all time.

Caveat: the DVD set uses the episodes as they were shortened for syndication, not the originally broadcast versions that were 2-3 minutes longer. Some companies will never learn that customers simply will not settle for such shoddy products. (The Cosby Show, Too Close for Comfort, and Mr. Bean DVD boxed sets also suffer badly from such butchering.)

Roseanne on DVD!
Roseanne is now available on DVD! Get it at Amazon.com!
Season One

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of Roseanne? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"Roseanne was an awesome show. They dealt with real problems like not having any money and just getting on each others nerves. My favorite episode was when Becky got drunk for the first time and Darlene covered up for her. It was really funny"

--Fohead

"This show is the best. It reminds me of when I was a little kid and me and my mom would watch it together. It reminds me of what it was like growing up and seeing how life wasn't that bad at all."

--Jrob85

"I love Roseanne so much! She so hilariously rude! My favorite episode is the one where Roseanne was working at the chicken place and her boss was younger than her and he was giving her bad hours so she invited him over the house for dinner and Dan fixed his carburater in exchange for him giving Roseanne different hours but as he was leaving their house he fired her so Dan took it apart and was giving him pieces of it - that was the best episode!"

--quizzy22

"The all time best episode has to be the one where they find the pot (in a bandaide tin, no less) in David's room. My husband and I laughed ourselves silly. It was so true!!! How we could justify doing something so stupid and still come out 'normal'. Roseanne's "This is your brain on drugs. . . " bit was a great bit of satire on the commericials.

Other favorites were any of the Halloween episodes. The parody of "A Christmas Carol" was brilliant. I like the fact that they did not do a Christmas show just like everyone else. She was never one to be sentimental or mushy; just slam it in your face funny. "

--pammer655

"I would have to say the funniest Roseanne to date would have to be when Roseanne was suffering from PMS and driving poor Dan nuts with her 101 personality changes in the course of 24 hours. Hilariously played by all the cast, I still laugh out loud when I see this episode. "

--Anonymous

"My favourite episodes were the last two. It took me many nights of going back through all the prior episodes on tape to find out that her "dream" really started from the episode where Dan made her a writing room in the basement. I was dissapointed however that the end left you hanging and owuld really like to see a reunion made for TV movie. This show just means so much to me growing up in a lower middle class neighborhood in suburban America. This was my life on TV. "

--Leylla

"My favorite episode was when Darlene and David announce that they are going to have a baby. They came into the kitchen to have dinner with the family, David was nervous and didn't want to sit by Roseanne. Roseanne says, "Somethings really up!" Next you're going to say Darlene's pregnant!! HAHA Darlene and David are nervous at this point. But it ends up working out, like it always does. That's what I love about Roseanne. But during the last episode I was really confused and I cried soo much. Roseanne starts to narrate the last 15 minutes of the show, and she says Jackie's really gay, Becky and David are really together, and Mark and Darlene are really together. This made me sad, I didn't know that Dan died after his heart attack and it was just a sad ending for me. I wish Roseanne would come back and their lives would continue and go on day-to-day. . . . . like a soap oprah! I would watch it every day!!!!"

--Shell

"One that I love is when Darlene gets her period. At first her parents think she's hasn't been sleeping well because of nightmares - until she shouts at them "I've got my period ok?!?"

And then Darlene feels that she has to get rid of all her stuff (eg, baseball gloves and ball) because she's becoming a woman. And confesses "All I know is that i'm not gonna be wearing panty hose like Becky!""

--Donna Che

"I actually didn't start watching the Roseanne show until recently on late night t. v. I am hooked on this show now. It's a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down about real life situations. What a bold move to air a show like this back in the Awesome80s. My favorite episode was the "Stash from the past. " Dan and Roseanne think they are getting old and boring. After they realize the pot they reprimanded David for bringing into their house, was really theirs; they decide to take a dip into their past recreational days. When hysterical paranio sets in, the conversation that Dan, Roseanne and Jackie have while locking themselves in the bathroom will have you peeing your pants."

--LisaLisa

""All" episodes of roseanne are my favorite. Her show was unlike any other and their will never be another like it. I dream of one day having a show that was as funny, talanted, different and unique as my idol and favorite show ever "Roseanne.""

--Gillespie

"This has to be my favorite show ever! It's so funny and comforting at the same time because it reminds me of when I was growing up. I can't even pick a favorite episode but my favorite seasons are the first 3."

--Cat

"Roseanne was the best show ever!! And I think it still is. It is so funny and realistic. They deal with real problems that most people deal with. Like, fighting with their family, and not having enough money to get everything they want in life. My favorite episode was when D. J. stole the car and his punishment was that he had to work at the Lunch Box with Roseanne. Then Roseanne would have more time to bother her boss. That was so funny!!"

--~*Lindey*~

" "Roseanne" was one of the best things that ever happened to primetime television. It was an amazingly-realistic look at a fictional working-class family, with characters who resonated with all the warts and charms of actual blue-collar Americans.

If I must pick a favorite episode, it would have to be "PMS, I Love You". From the moment that a hormonally-challenged Roseanne, head bristling with curlers, fixes her terrified husband with a withering look and asks in a frighteningly-soft and gentle voice: "Dan, do you think I'm pretty?" you know you're in for a treat. Of course, throughout the episode you enjoy Roseanne's antics and Dan's inevitable suffering. But the real treat comes at the end - when a new day dawns and Roseanne awakes(cheerful and PMS-free)to find Dan sullen and distant. She offers to make him a special breakfast. He snaps at her and stalks off. She sneers and says "Men!", and you know she has mistaken Dan's righteous anger for what most of us secretly believe our men suffer from: MMM(Monthly Male Moodiness). And that's the end of it - no long speeches about love and respect, no apologies, no neat TV-sitcom solution. It's hilarious. It's real. It's life."

--webslave1957

"The sitcom Roseanne ran from 1988 to 1997. It was about a blue collar family including the mother Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr), the dad Dan Conner(John Goodman) and there three children Becky Conner (Lecy Goranson/Sarah Chalke), Darlene Conner (Sara Gilbert), DJ Conner (Michael Fishman) also included is Roseanne's sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalfe).

Unlike other sitcoms of this time Roseanne was the head of this family and she was constantly looking for another job to help support her family. Dan Conner also had many jobs throught out the series. Roseanne and Dan's eldest child Becky Conner was popular at school and always on the phone. The middle kid Darlene was a tomboy she was more interested in sports than make up. DJ follows his Dad around most places. Throughout the series the family deal with many things including puberty, unplanned pregnancy, masturbation, gay rights, race relations and marriage."

--Anonymous

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: 1988-1997

Cast: Roseanne Barr, John Goodman, George Clooney

Network: ABC

Genre: Sitcom

Theme song

Image courtesy of ABC


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