Anxiously Awaiting Roseanne

I’m almost always the first one up on Saturday mornings–if you don’t count the dog and cat, who are the ones who wake me up–and I spend my alone-time with Roseanne. I make a cup of tea and I cozy up on the couch with the TV Land marathon of one of my all-time favorite shows.

I loved Roseanne from the beginning. It was the first TV show I ever saw where the people were recognizable to me–who behaved, dressed, talked, and just plain lived like the people I knew. I didn’t grow up in a nuclear family where one parent was a therapist and one was a news anchor. (Shout out to the Seavers!) Nor were they architects (the Keatons!) or doctors or lawyers (the Huxtables). My mom waited tables, my grandmother watched me and my cousin, and my grandfather worked shift-work at the paper mill. If there was ever a family that I could imagine living next door to, it was the Conners. 

Let’s Talk About Darlene

I’ve always been partial to Darlene. Her wise-cracking influenced my sense of humor in ways I probably still don’t totally understand. But even I didn’t realize what an influence she’d been on a generation of smart girls who weren’t into dresses and make-up. Setting aside the fact that her flannel and combat boots were on-point, she was the rare ’90s heroine who wasn’t completely boy-crazy. Let’s stop, for a minute, to compare the bad-ass Darlene to the other Angst Queen of the ’90s, Angela Chase.

Let’s be real. My So-Called Life’s protagonist was basically a simpering mess. She was a spoiled brat who couldn’t think of anything other than a guy who could barely read. She once said Anne Frank was lucky because she got to be locked in an attic with a boy she liked. Good God, Angela. 

Darlene, on the other hand, basically led David around by his silly hair and, ultimately, didn’t let him stop her from going off and realizing her dreams. She was, simply put, a badass.

Jackie Is My Jam

Re-watching those Saturday morning episodes, I have a new found respect for Jackie. Not only am I old enough to appreciate Laurie Metcalf’s genius (she was robbed for Ladybird), but as a 30-something woman who has been single for most of my life, I can relate to Jackie now. She’s out there doing her thing, whether it’s becoming a cop or a trucker, and dating hot dudes…

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As the ’90s would say, “You go, girl!”

I Have Reservations

You’d think my excitement about the new season (debuting tomorrow) would be unmitigated. When The Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life was announced, I was bouncing off the walls with excitement. I wasn’t worried that Amy Sherman-Palladino was going to ruin Rory and Lorelai forever. But I’m not sure Roseanne isn’t going to drive a stake through the collective heart of the beloved Conner family. She already did it once.

There are the obvious political concerns. The original run of Roseanne had some of the first openly gay characters on TV. There was an entire episode that revolved around DJ’s not wanting to kiss a girl in the school play because she was black, and the show handled it deftly. Rosie wanted to make him do it, yelling about how racists gave “respectable white trash like us a bad name.” Meanwhile, Dan wondered if DJ was picking up racist attitudes from him. And then Rosie had to confront her own racism when a black man shows up at the restaurant’s door and she turns him away.

And let us not forget the Thanksgiving play, where the white people go on a native killing spree…which, no doubt, introduced me and many other people my age to the idea that we weren’t getting the whole story in history class.

But, Roseanne has become some kind of weird, pseudo-Trump supporter. To be honest, if you keep an eye on her Twitter feed, none of it really makes any sense. I can’t find any kind of coherent political thought in her Tweets, but that’s not what has me worried. I could see plenty of humor rising from storylines where Rosie’s bizarre love of Trump alienates the rest of the family. The problem is that the commercials don’t look funny.

That money joke… Oy.

It looks like the kind of schlocky sitcom I can’t stand…which Roseanne never was. If you go back and watch those old episodes, the difference between Roseanne and its contemporaries is stark. In fact, after the TV Land marathon ends, a Golden Girls marathon begins. Golden Girls is arguably one of the best shows of that same era. I watch it now and I’m shocked by how frankly they tackle issues like the sexuality of older women, HIV, homosexuality, and more. But the way it’s filmed, and the way the jokes are written is so much more of its time than Roseanne. Dorothy’s zingers still stand up, but the Conners seemed like real people. Our favorite Miami gals still seem like sitcom characters. From the way they spoke to the way they laughed at each other–Rosie often has to give a couple extra beats before her line to handle her own laughter–the show seemed ahead of its time.

When the show began, Roseanne was basically playing herself. She didn’t need to be a good actress, she just had to be good at being herself. But as time went on, and she got further away from the character she created–through nips and tucks, and fancy haircuts, and boatloads of money–the show got away from what made it great. This truth is painfully evident in that last season, but it starts long before then. We start getting weird episodes with dream sequences where Rosie is in a bunch of different classic sitcoms, and I start wishing I could skip past it but then remember I’m watching on TV Land, not on Netflix.

Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman are among my favorite actors. They are American treasures, and it’s almost painful to see them in that trailer, playing against a Roseanne who is now far-removed from the world of the Conners.

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I’m going to watch, because I basically have to… But I am prepared to be disappointed.

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