Roseanne is Back!
The Revival of All Things '80s Continues
On Tuesday, March 27th, the Roseanne revival premiered on ABC, and you know something? It was great. It felt like home.
When Roseanne originally premiered in 1988, it was a breath of a fresh air on the sitcom landscape, which had been dominated by the likes of the Huxtables on The Cosby Show and the Seavers’ on Growing Pains. Those shows were fun and those families were fun, but they weren’t exactly relatable. Their houses were so big, and the furniture was so nice. On both shows, the patriarchs were either an OB/GYN or a psychiatrist with a practice he ran out of the office in his house.
Like I said, not exactly relatable.
Then, along came Roseanne.
Before her TV show, Roseanne Barr had a career as a comedian, and what made her stand out was not just her sense of humor, but how she carried herself on stage. She did not wear a dress like Rita Rudner, and she did not bring with her an accordion like Judy Tenuta. Instead, she wore the same clothes she might wear at home while sitting on her sofa, and she brought with her a bag of Cheetos. If they weren’t Cheetos, they were a generic version.
I couldn’t find the clip with the Cheetos, but that was one of our first introductions to Roseanne Barr.
So, it was no surprise that her show about the fictional Connor family was about the same things. They did not live in a big house, dad did not have a well-paying job, and neither did Mom. Roseanne worked at a factory along with her sister, Jackie, and Dan worked in construction. In one memorable moment, he was referred to as “Dan, Dan the drywall man!”
They lived in Middle America in a two story house with old furniture covered in blankets that were more than likely used to cover up the wear and tear on the furniture that had seen better days. They lived paycheck to paycheck, and one of the details I really liked in the original series was how none of the food in their pantry were name brand; it was all generic. These were people who struggled. These were people like the people I knew. These people were real.
It helped that along with that realness, the show came with a sense of humor that bit like a savage beast. They hurled insults at each other the way the Huxtables and the Seavers flashed loving smiles at each other. This family was not sanitized. They had fights, arguments, screaming, and even name-calling.
However, there was also love, and that’s really what set the show apart. The Huxtables and the Seavers loved each other, too, but it was easy for those families to love each other. With the Connors, they loved each other not in spite of the hardships, but because of the hardships. They knew that no matter how loud they screamed at each other before school or work, at the end of the day when they came home after a rough day, Mom, Dad, and Aunt Jackie would be there for them.
No matter what.
Therefore, I am happy to say that in this new incarnation, they haven’t changed. They still feel real, and the best part is how effortless they make it look. Dan and Roseanne are on pills for anxiety and blood pressure, but because of changes in insurance, they aren’t covered for all the meds they need. Roseanne is mad at Jackie because she voted for a jerk in the 2016 election, and Jackie is mad at Roseanne, too, because Roseanne voted for Trump.
Yes, the Connors are Trump supporters, and they would be. They are the forgotten demographic that felt left out by Obama and Hillary. However, the show continues to be brilliant in that Trump’s election is not entirely Roseanne’s fault. Jackie, who because of her sister doubted herself when it came to the moment and vote for a candidate, voted for Jill Stein.
Yep, she helped get Trump elected, too.
It’s also great to see all the old cast. Darlene is now grown up, and though Sara Gilbert is gay, Darlene herself is not, and the show has a funny moment with that. She has a son named Mac who enjoys wearing girl’s clothes, and the show handles this subplot quite well. Darlene doesn’t want to put an onus on it, but Dan and Roseanne are afraid for the kid at school. I am not going to tell you how it gets resolved, but you can see Dan gains some respect for the little boy.
Becky, who in the series was played both by Lecy Goransan and Sarah Chalke (and the show has fun with that, too; but it always did), wants to become a surrogate mother. Her husband has died, she is struggling, and this would help her finally be able to afford a down payment on a house. Dan and Roseanne, of course, have feelings about this that run counter to what Becky wants to do, and the ensuing drama is what made the original so good. It’s great to see they haven’t lost their touch.
Behind the scenes, the show is executive produced by Roseanne herself and Sara Gilbert who is more than an actor on the show now. Whitney Cummings and Wanda Sykes also have a hand on the producing side. I imagine they were brought in to make the show feel more modern.
This is what I love about the revival– no matter how modern it is, it still feels as good and as real as it did in 1988.
Welcome back, Roseanne.
We missed you.
It’s been a week now since I wrote this and the new Roseanne premiered. There has been a lot of talk about not just the show, but its titular star. How the TV Roseanne is a Trump supporter just like the real life Roseanne is. How Trump called her to congratulate her on her ratings. Of course, he thought it was all about him, but it wasn’t.
It was about the nostalgia and the feeling of seeing all these familiar characters again (and the couch, too). Nonetheless, you will never be able to explain that to him. Then, there was the Tweet Roseanne sent out and then deleted in which she compared Marjorie Stoneham Douglas shooting survivor David Hogg to a Nazi. Roseanne tagged him in her tweet and wrote under his picture, “NAZI SALUTE.” Yes, all the caps are hers.
On top of all this, Roseanne is not the nicest person on Twitter or in real life, tweeting about conspiracy theories and the like. So, does the reconstituted Roseanne stand up to all that? For me, the show still works, and I think they were smart to bring up politics in the first episode; they were even smarter to leave it out of the second episode. Like Harvey Weinstein, it brings up the question: How and when do we separate the art from the artist?
What’s my take on that question? Well, I don’t know if I have an answer, but I will tune in for the third episode of Roseanne.