I remember when Rosanne first came on the air back in 1988, mostly because it was honest, real, and truly groundbreaking but also because of something more personal.
In a phone conversation with my mother, she asked if I had seen the show and went on to tell me how much “that woman reminds me of you.” I wasn’t quite sure how to take that at the time. Of course I’m never sure how to take things from her (but that’s another story all together).
As I sat down with my kids and husband this last week to watch Roseanne – The Complete First Season, I began to see what was meant by that comment. By the roars of my family’s laughter, it seemed they could too.
The show, featured around the struggling working class family, took a weekly look into what nearly every working class family of the eighties were dealing with. The Connors struggled from paycheck to paycheck while trying to raise their family. Dan and Roseanne, though done with sharp witted humor, always treated each other and the children with the utmost love and consideration while just trying to do the best they could.
At a time when prime time television revolved around the wealthy or the then Hollywood image, it was refreshing to be looking at reflections of your own family.
Groundbreaking, not only in the way it characters were portrayed but also in the topics covered, Roseanne tackled both serious issues and common concerns of the working class. The struggles of raising kids while both parents work, unemployment, medical emergencies, and interfering in-laws are all handled realistically showing the struggles in a way that perfectly blends the emotion and humor.
Episodes that are shining highlights of the first season of Roseanne are “Radio Days”, “The Slice of Life”, and “Let’s Call it Quits.”
In “Radio Days” Roseanne encourages Dan to enter a songwriting contest the radio station is holding. After long consideration, he decides to write music to one of Roseanne’s poems and submits it. Their excitement over the fact there are only four entries, quickly wanes when they come in dead last. It is full of touching moments, of a husband and wife supporting and encouraging each other, seasoned with the classic humor seen in Dan’s line, “How do you explain to people the song wasn’t good enough to win two tickets to the annual tractor pull?”
“This Slice of Life” begins with upset and sarcastic comments being exchanged between Roseanne and middle child Darleen. Darleen later reveals to her sister she is embarrassed by her parent’s behavior at her games. At the ball game however, the girl collapses and is rushed to the hospital. Dan and Roseanne and shown going through the roller coaster ride of emotions as they wait the outcome of the surgery.
“Let’s Call it Quits” hit particularly close to home for me as I watched it. Several years ago I was in a similar situation of needing the job I had, but said job (and a nasty supervisor) was making me a candidate for a rubber-room. In the end, we both made the same decision to leave the job. The mixture of the fear of the unknown and the freedom from the stress was portrayed just as I remember feeling it, showing again just how raw and slice of life the show was while maintaining its cutting edge comedy.
The four disc set contains a huge treat of bonus features. All new interviews with Roseanne and John Goodman are insightful and fun as both stars look back on what brought them to the roles, how they grew as actors, and just fond memories of scenes from certain episodes (not all first season). It also includes a blooper reel as well as tidbits and one-liners aptly called “Wisdom From the Domestic Goddess”
Roseanne: The complete First Season is both a sentimental look back at one of the most intelligent sit-coms on TV as well as a humorous exploration of family life for those viewing it for the first time. The topics remain timely, fifteen years later.
Now, looking back, if my mother were to tell me again that the woman on that show Roseanne reminded her of me, I do know what I would say. “Thank you very much.”