Roseanne is back with the same cast members playing the same characters in the Conner family that we laughed with back in the 1990s. They’re all grown up and older, but are they any wiser? I thought the premier episode was true to the original and had a few good laughs.
Even as the new Roseanne retained the flavor and the sets used in the older version, things have changed.
Roseanne Barr and John Goodman as Dan still head up the clan. Here’s what’s new.
The only kid who’s living away from home is Becky (Alicia Goranson). She can barely afford to live in her own place – probably because she’s childless. In the first episode she wants to make $50,000 as a surrogate for a woman who would use Becky’s own eggs and her husband’s sperm. Since this baby would in fact be Roseanne and John’s grandchild, Becky’s choice to do this generates a lot of comment in the family. Among them the fact that she’s 40+ years old.
This story line also points out the lengths people have to go to in today’s economy to pay off their credit cards, get a car, and buy a modest home.
Darlene (Sara Gilbert) recently lost her job and moved back in with the folks. She’s without a partner. Remember when accepting her as gay was a big deal for the Conners? Darlene says several times in episode 1 that she isn’t gay, but she didn’t go so far as to announce her own identity. I’m waiting to hear it! If she declares herself as bi, I’ll consider it a good thing. More bi visibility can only be good. [Note: See the comments for corrections to my errors on Darlene’s sexuality. Thank you, readers.]
Darlene has a teen aged daughter Harris (Emma Kenney) who seems like a ‘normal’ teen so far. Darlene has a son Mark (Ames McNamara) who is gender nonconforming. This worries everyone in the family very much. Not so much because of who he is, but because they think he’ll be beaten up at school.
Roseanne and Dan don’t get Mark, but they accept him. Mark is part of their family and they love him, fingernail polish and skirts included. It doesn’t worry Mark and Darlene – they both get it. I’m interested in how they handle this child’s story as the season goes forward. This issue will be the real test for me as to whether Roseanne fits the current times.
Roseanne’s Sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) is on the other side of the political spectrum from Roseanne, which made for some interesting conversation in the first episode. We’ll see if the political arguments continue forward.
D.J. ( Michael Fishman) is home from serving in Syria, where his wife is still stationed. He has a daughter Mary (Jayden Rey). The daughter is biracial. Of course Roseanne and Dan love her, too. She’s their princess. Jackie is quick to point out Mary can be a lawyer or a politician (make that a female president) or anything she wants to be.
Let’s tote this up. Everyone is still broke. The gay daughter has a nonbinary kid. The son married a woman of color. And the single daughter is preparing to give away her half of a grandkid for $50,000.
It’s all well and good to be a conservative and claim you’re a Republican until someone comes along who you love and who would be bullied and mistreated by the administration you voted for. The Conners are a juxtaposition of everything raging in the culture. Roseanne (the real Roseanne and the character) voted for Trump. Fox is considered ‘the real news’ in their home. But their family situation stands in complete opposition to what they say they believe politically.
They don’t see the cognitive disconnect between what they say about politics and their own self-interest. It’s an unexamined life. In that way they are a microcosm of America right now.
From this viewer’s perspective, it seems that Roseanne still has the pulse of America in its sights and is going to take on big issues with the same sarcasm and humor it did back in the 90s.
The premier felt both familiar and like a bit of catching up was needed. The catching up took place quickly in well written scenes that didn’t use exposition. Rather they were a natural part of the action.
If every episode is as good as the first one, the new Roseanne should be a hit.
After I published this review, I learned our President called Roseanne to congratulate her on the show and he is claiming the good ratings as proof of his popularity. Because of that I feel I must do my part to make sure the ratings fall in the future. #Resist
Sara Gilbert is gay, her character is not. I apologize for mixing those two things up. Sara Gilbert is responsible for pushing to bring Roseanne back and for getting writers like Wanda Sykes on board. The nuance in the opening episode is certainly attributable to them and not to Roseanne Barr’s politics.