I grew up watching all sorts of sitcoms from “Friends” and “George Lopez” to “The Nanny” – it was one of my favorite things to do as a kid when I came home from school on Fridays. One of those shows included the hit 1990s show, “Roseanne.”
For the first time in 21 years, “Roseanne” has returned to television at the end of March 2018. This sitcom became famous in the 90s for its realistic portrayal of a working-class, American family while also dealing with controversial topics such as abortion and abuse. “Roseanne” was progressive and renowned for stirring up heated debate, something the revival has been been anything but shy about.
I wasn’t necessarily aiming to watch this particular revival. The past few years, I’ve formed a slight vendetta against revivals as they’ve become overused and tend to ruin the nice, clean cut, happy endings of their original shows and movies. It’s gotten to the point where I don’t want to know what happens after these stories end. However, “Roseanne’s” 1997 series finale disappointed me, along with the rest of the American public, when the worst season finale ever aired revealed that everything from the past 9 seasons didn’t happen – including Dan (John Goodman) never actually survived his heart attack. So, when my mom casually suggested watching it over Easter break, my curiosity and want for a better ending for the Conner family got the best of me.
In the reboot, Roseanne Conner (Roseanne Barr) and her husband, Dan (despite him not surviving as per the 1997 finale) are struggling to make ends meet while their recently divorced daughter, Darlene (Sara Gilbert) moves back home with her children, Harris (Emma Kenney) and Mark (Ames McNamara) after getting fired from her job. Meanwhile, the eldest Conner child, Becky (Lecy Goranson), is offered $50,000 to be a surrogate (to Sarah Chalke, who actually played Becky in the original series) while son D.J. (Michael Fisherman) has just returned from serving in Syria to take care of his young daughter, Mary (Jayden Rey) while his wife is deployed. The show also has vet appearances from Laurie Metcalf as Aunt Jackie and Johnny Galecki as Darlene’s now ex-husband David.
Just like many of the other revivals we’ve been graced with in the last three years, “Roseanne” has brought a great deal of nostalgia to those who watch it. The structure of the first episode is similar to that of a classic 90s sitcom. Within the first five minutes there is some sort of joke about the eldest daughter being a disgruntled teen and how the older people in the show don’t understand this “new generation.” It’s a fairly hit or miss, cookie cutter beginning – sticking to the original’s previous structure. There’s nothing very substantial about it, but one character that has been shining the most in the first few episodes is Darlene. Darlene is probably the funniest and most relatable character currently on the show. Two decades later and she’s still her sarcastic, flannel wearing self — transitioning into life as a single mom while trying to keep the Conners together.
Despite the simplistic start, things get dicey for the show the moment politics are introduced in the first episode. In recent news there has been a lot of discussion about “Roseanne” because Barr is an avid President Donald Trump supporter. In the first episode, Aunt Jackie and Roseanne are not on speaking terms as Aunt Jackie supported Hillary Clinton and Roseanne supported President Trump. The show, which is known for the way it’s handled fairly liberal political topics in the past, dealt with the 2018 political climate in a clumsy manner. The politics were not relevant to what was going on with the current main plot. Darlene got laid off, D.J. returned from war, Becky’s selling her eggs just to get by – yet the episode focuses on Roseanne and Aunt Jackie bickering about the results of an election. It felt random and forced, as if it was thrown in just for Barr to flash off who she supports.
However, this topic is relevant within our society. It depicts a working class family that has different opinions, a norm for a majority of people in our country right now. So, to give the revival some credit, it produces a fair depiction of the turmoil families have been dealing with since the 2016 election by portraying an everyday dysfunctional family choosing opposite sides.
“Roseanne” is still keeping to its progressive roots through the addition of D.J.’s biracial daughter and Darlene’s non-binary son – a major theme in the second episode when Mark wants to wear a dress to school. The message of this episode conveys how families should be accepting of their loved ones and allow them to be who they are, something especially interesting due to the back and forth political dynamic of the Conner family.
By the second episode, I found myself chuckling at the disastrous nature of the Conners as I regressed back to childhood nights of scrolling through channels and putting on “Roseanne” reruns. The show itself has immediately taken off based on the 18.1 million views the debut received and the fact that, according to AOL, ABC already renewed the show for a second season. So even if, like me, you grew up watching “Rosanne” but are getting tired of all these revivals, you should check it out. On the other hand, if you have not seen the original, that’s okay. Overall, “Rosanne” is just one of those shows to fall back on when you need something to watch late at night.