So, here we are in 2018. Depending on who you ask, America is either on its way to “greatness” under Donald J. Trump or on its way down the drain. In a time where politics always rears its ugly head at just the right moment, all anyone can do is look back to the “good old days” when everyone just sat around, drank, and watched TV.
Which brings me to the latest ABC reboot of the year.
In 2017, the ABC network announced the revival of Roseanne, the much-beloved sitcom of a working-class family trying to make life work in suburban Illinois. The first episode aired on March 27th of this year, and has not lost its spark. Roseanne Barr reprises her role is the matriarch of the Conner family, who’s constantly trying to juggle her home life with the creeping influence of every “ism” in today’s world. Her husband Dan, played by John Goodman, is continually at her side to either push her buttons or retreat to his beer out in the garage – just the way we remember them.
In Episode 1, we catch up with the Barr family after all these years. Darlene Conner, played once again by Sara Gilbert, is forced to move back in with Roseanne and Dan after falling on hard times. Roseanne and Dan’s oldest child Becky, played by Lecy Goranson, has announced her plans to become a surrogate mother after falling on hard times herself. As for DJ Conner, played by Michael Fishman, he is a now war veteran with an African-American child and a wife who is fighting overseas.
The fun begins with the return of Roseanne’s sister Jackie, played by Laurie Metcalf, who is now a pussy-hat wearing feminist, enraged at Roseanne for voting against Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Election. The two exchange wisecracks, damn near tear each other to pieces, then find common ground while sprinkling colorful insults over each other in classic Roseanne fashion.
Now, without a doubt, the series is bound to strike a nerve, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. Conservative pundits like Ben Shapiro have harped on the alleged undercurrent of liberal values, whereas left-wing journalists like Roxane Gay are so frothing-at-the-mouth anti-Donald Trump that now even Roseanne Barr is a “noxious, transphobic, racist and small-minded” xenophobe because of her gig as the Trump-loving Roseanne Conner (seriously!). For the rest of us, though, we don’t give a damn. We watch television to be entertained, and sometimes informed on issues, and Roseanne manages to give us both entertainment and information without being mean-spirited.
No matter which faction is lampooned, there’s always room for laughter. Roseanne is obviously the wise-cracking conservative who refuses to budge in her values. Nevertheless, other characters such as Jackie Harris are given the same treatment, as Harris is portrayed as one who’s gone so far-left, she practically speaks an alien language.
It’s all laughter until things get serious, then reality sets in. By Episode 2, we interact more with the next generation of the Barr-Healy family, namely Mark. Played by Ames McNamara, Mark is Darlene’s son, who doesn’t conform to gender roles and dresses up in girl’s clothing. As he is bullied to the point of wielding a knife at school, the family is forced to think critically about this point in Mark’s life before he falls into an abyss.
Every show has its strengths and weaknesses, and the new Roseanne is no different. My biggest fear is that like other 90s reboots, such as Beavis and Butthead in 2011, it may sparkle for a time and then fizzle out without anyone noticing. There’s plenty of room for laughs and social commentary, but the big challenge here will be the ability to keep the fire burning. As long as people need a good laugh and a break from the divisiveness of today’s political arena, this show will have a good standing.
Let’s just hope the “Roseanne” reboot can help us think critically about ourselves before we too risk falling into an abyss.