“ROSEANNE” ON ABC By Tim Riley 2018
After its initial TV debut nearly three decades ago, “Roseanne,” a working-class family sitcom that ran for nine successful seasons, has been rebooted with most of the original cast in place on the ABC network. The original program was innovative for its focus on the family dynamic where both parents were dealing with everyday problems while juggling work and parental duties to make ends meet.
Not much has changed in the Conner household in the intervening years, except that Roseanne Barr’s Roseanne and John Goodman’s Dan have settled into dealing with aging problems, such as taking a lot of medications and handling the usual family rifts. The new series kickoffs with Roseanne waking up in bed with her husband Dan and saying to him, “I thought you were dead” and he replies, “Why does everyone think I am dead?,” which is apparently the quick and easy way to deal with the fact that he supposedly died in the original ninth season.
In the first episode, “Roseanne” also tackles the fallout of the 2016 election where friction remains between Roseanne and her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), who shows up wearing a “Nasty Woman” T-shirt and the ubiquitous knit cap that was prominent in the Women’s March on Washington. Looking to tackle social and political issues appears at the initial glance as a way to involve the family in a wide-ranging discussion on issues from healthcare and jobs to oldest daughter Becky’s (Lecy Goranson) desire to become a surrogate mother for a huge payday.
The Conner household has expanded to now include daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert), now divorced and broke, with two children, the youngest one a precocious grade-schooler whose wardrobe is, well, a bit too unorthodox for his new classmates. One thing for sure about the revived “Roseanne” is that the one-liners remain sharply funny. When asked about family medical history, Roseanne says, “All of your relatives died of alcoholism. The ones that didn’t drink were killed by the ones who did.”
Without keeping score, it would seem a lot of the good lines naturally go to Roseanne, but others definitely get in their licks. Not thrilled with Becky’s plans for surrogacy, Roseanne retorts, “Don’t have a yard sale in your uterus.” During the winter TV press tour, a critic asked if the reboot taps into nostalgia, and Roseanne Barr replied that “I think it’s fun to check back in with the family that you knew and felt you knew so much about and that you enjoyed so much.”
Time will tell if the star of “Roseanne” was on to something about a longing for a vintage show, but in the meantime this new “Roseanne” is off to a good start, at least for the viewers who remember the original series.