The Reality of Roseanne
Roseanne Barr has never been one to mince her words. Her views on the world and on life are widely publicised and her outspoken nature has led to a lot of criticism and public outcry at her outrageous and sometimes shocking behaviour. When she first burst onto the comedy scene in 1985, her feminist views and political spin on everyday topics worked their way into every one of her jokes, which surprisingly did not dispirit audiences from her comedy style but instead endeared her to them. The fact much of her standup routine was told from the point of view of an everyday housewife, making jokes of commonplace things that audiences could relate to, meant that after her first appearance on The Johnny Carson Show she was propelled into stardom and offered her own sitcom by ABC. View Roseanne’s first TV appearance HERE!
When I was perhaps five or six years old, I remember sitting in the living room watching television with my parents on a Friday night and we were watching a show called “Roseanne“. I had no idea what the show was about, but all I knew was that there was a very funny fat lady on television and she was making my parents laugh out loud with everything she said or did – and therefore I just laughed along for the sake of it.
As I grew older I began to understand more of the comedy, and didn’t just laugh whenever she fell over or smacked her husband across the head. I could put jokes together in my mind and eventually I understood lines like “I like my marshmallows like I like my men… crispy on the outside and stuck to the end of a fork!” Granted it wasn’t until I was 23 that I understood the whole “I could tell she was a lesbian by the “I’m a Big Ol’ Dyke” bumper sticker on her car!” line, but still I began to enjoy the show more and more with each passing year, watching re-runs and managing to relate to this very funny family dealing with mundane situations.
Now I am older, not so much wiser, but I now own each and every season of “Roseanne” on DVD. For the past few weeks now I have been going to bed and watching an episode or two and I still find myself laughing out loud at the show. The success of the show, and certainly what makes it special to me, is in it’s reality. Journalist Barbara Ehrenreich described Roseanne’s character on the show as “a working class spokesperson representing the underclass housewife“. Each episode dealt with real issues, shocking issues and just normal everyday scenarios that anyone and everyone could relate to. The reality that the show provides makes it easy to relate to and so much of the jokes and issues it dealt with made audiences turn to one another and smile knowingly. There could be episodes where nothing really happened… There was no real dramatic storyline asides from someone forgetting to buy a loaf of bread – and yet the show was still hilarious and great viewing because of it’s heart and warmth underneath Roseanne’s sarcastic and cynical nasality.
“Now look, your Dad and I made enough money last year to live very, very, well… for six months… and then we juggled.” – Roseanne, Season 2 Episode 22
The fact so many episodes and scenes take place within the confines of the family home, at the dinner table or with the main cast sat lying around the couches in the lounge allow the audience to (unlike other sitcoms such as “Will & Grace“, which I feel distances the audience) feel a part of the family and as if you have just pulled up a chair at the dining table of the Connor family.
There are certain episodes throughout the show’s Nine Season run that stick out to several people as being major episodes or breakthrough episodes! Indeed, Roseanne (the woman and the show) provided several groundbreaking (I hate using that word) episodes. It gave the world the first ever openly homosexual character in a sitcom, the first ever lesbian kiss on television, it discussed periods, masturbation and everything taboo. Nothing was off limits it seemed, and on a personal level I feel the show’s openness and frankness in realism meant more and more people could relate.
In a Season Two episode entitled “The Little Sister” we are given the first real glimpse into the loving and caring relationship between Roseanne’s character and her sister Jackie when Jackie reveals she wants to become a cop. The shocking moment when Roseanne pulls a pretend gun on Jackie and screams “Alright pig, I’ve got a gun to your head and I’m gonna blow your brains out!” reveals the real reason Roseanne is so against Jackie wanting to become a cop – she doesn’t want her getting killed. Interestingly, this episode was written by future Buffy The Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon!
In Season Four, the show went against all sitcom rules and had a storyline last the entirety of a season without being resolved until the very end of the season. In the episode “Darlene Fades to Black” the middle child of the Connor clan finds herself slowly slipping into depression. While her parents and friends around her see this as simply a gothic/teenage phase, only the audience can really see what is going on. This storyline ran for the entirety of Season Four and explored the layers and very serious issue of depression with respect.
The Season Five episode “Wait Till Your Father Comes Home” dealt with the death of Roseanne’s father. This episode not only includes one of the funniest moments from the show’s entire run, where Jackie calls Aunt Barbara to pass on the bad news, but also includes a very emotional and heartfelt finale scene. At the end of the episode Roseanne goes to the funeral home to visit her father, and is left alone with the coffin to say a few final words. Her emotional speech to her dead father is not only moving but may also hold a little reality to it – certainly it made me feel the words Roseanne Connor were saying were actually coming from Roseanne Barr. The very raw and real speech is another reason this show holds heart and soul beneath the white trash blue collar exterior it gets collared with in the press.
The Reality of “Roseanne” is that the show became so much more than just a sitcom, just a television show. The realism that was put into portraying a relatable middle class family in midwestern America is so detailed and so loving that as an audience member, there is a warmth and heart to each and every episode that can cheer you up on the coldest and darkest days because you feel there are families out there just like you. Making light of every day situations, putting comedy into the dark things like depression, death and poverty make life seem that little bit better because you realise there are worse things in life and you are not alone.
Clip of Jackie phoning Aunt Barbara in “Wait Till Your Father Comes Home” HERE!
Clip of Roseanne during her Comedy Central Roast HERE!