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April 2018, Week 1

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 		 [ It is still funny in the same ways it was always funny, using
classic sitcom jokes and storylines to highlight issues of class.]
[https://portside.org/] 

 PORTSIDE CULTURE 

 ROSEANNE IS BACK WEARING A TRUMP HAT, BUT SHOWING PROGRESSIVE
TENDENCIES  
[https://portside.org/2018-04-01/roseanne-back-wearing-trump-hat-showing-progressive-tendencies-0]


 

 Jen Chaney 
 March 26, 2018
Vulture [http://www.vulture.com/2018/03/roseanne-review.html] 

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	* [https://portside.org/node/16887/printable/print]

 _ It is still funny in the same ways it was always funny, using
classic sitcom jokes and storylines to highlight issues of class. _ 

 Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Dan (John Goodman), together again. ,
Adam Rose/ABC 

 

When _Roseanne_ debuted in October 1987, it offered a brash
depiction of family life that kept things more real than practically
every other sitcom on TV. Roseanne Conner, played by stand-up comic
Roseanne Barr, was all the things that good TV moms – or for that
matter, “good moms” in general – were not supposed to be. She
was loud. She told her husband pretty bluntly when he wasn’t doing
his part around the house. She had no qualms about embarrassing her
kids in public. And she made it clear that being a wife and a mother
was, often, a total pain in the ass. That’s the default position in
a lot of present-day comedies about raising kids,
from _Speechless_ to _Better Things_. But when _Roseanne_ –
along with _Married … With Children_ and, later, _The
Simpsons_ – routinely showed us the less camera-ready side of
parenting in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it was revolutionary.

More than 30 years later, _Roseanne _is back for a tenth season on
ABC, and has been rebooted in a manner that lightly echoes the
way _Will & Grace_ was successfully reincarnated just a few months
ago. Like the NBC comedy, _Roseanne_returns with the same cast,
tosses aside previous inconvenient plot developments (Dan Conner: no
longer dead!), and focuses its first episode in large part on the
impact of Donald Trump’s election. The difference is that,
while _Will & Grace_ more or less jettisoned Trump talk after the
first episode, the fact that Roseanne Conner voted for Trump redefines
her character for the 21st century. On one hand, as a working-class
white woman living in the middle of the country, it’s not surprising
that she’s a Trump supporter. (The fact that the real Roseanne is
pro-Trump also leeches the shock value out of this reveal.) But on the
other, Roseanne was always an unabashed pro-choice feminist who
presumably would have little patience for pussy grabbers.

“How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?” asks her sister
Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) in the first of two half-hours that air
Tuesday night. The two have been feuding ever since the election and
still haven’t buried the hatchet, or the pussy hats and Make America
Great Again caps that divide them.

“He talked about jobs, Jackie,” Roseanne explains. “He said he
would shake things up. I mean, this might come as a complete shock to
you, but we almost lost our house the way things are going.”

“Have you looked at the news?” Jackie asks. “Because now things
are worse.”

“Not on the _real_ news,” Roseanne shoots back.

Yet when Becky (played by the original Becky, Lecy Goranson) announces
that she’s planning to act as a surrogate and donate her own eggs to
another couple trying to get pregnant, Jackie points out that it’s
Becky’s body, Becky’s choice, and Roseanne can’t help but agree.
Apparently it is possible for this woman to still have some
progressive views and, also, buy into aspects of what Trump is
selling. Which, in ultra-divisive 2018, is a somewhat revolutionary
idea, one that will get even more interesting if the sitcom allows
Roseanne to continue grappling more openly with her own philosophical
contradictions. (ABC provided three episodes in advance.)

In other important ways, _Roseanne_ hasn’t changed at all. It is
still funny in the same ways it was always funny, using classic sitcom
jokes and storylines to highlight issues of class. When Darlene’s
teenage daughter Harris (Emma Kenney) asks, “Can I have some
money?” Darlene immediately turns to Roseanne : “I don’t know.
Mom, can I have some money?” Then Roseanne looks to the sky: “I
don’t know. Can I have some money?”

Some of the writers and producers who worked on the original are back
for this one, including producer Tom Werner, Bruce Rasmussen, who
penned the premiere, and Sid Youngers, who wrote the third episode.
But they’re joined by producers, consultants, and writers like
Whitney Cummings, Wanda Sykes, and Darlene Hunt, the creator of _The
Big C_ and writer of the second episode of _Roseanne_ 2.0, an
approach that adds to the sense that this _Roseanne_ is a very
carefully designed hybrid of new and old.

Sometimes the carefully designed nature of the show holds it back a
bit. Perhaps this is due to the episodes ABC chose to make available
to critics – the first two and the seventh, which addresses opioid
addiction, were the ones ABC shared – _Roseanne_ seems so driven
to advance socially relevant storylines that it doesn’t alway
unfold with the same natural ease that characterized the original in
its best seasons. (Obviously season nine, in which the Conners won the
lottery and, in one episode, Roseanne saves most of her family from an
act of train terrorism, was not one of those seasons.)

The writers have to engage in a tiny bit of sorcery to bring the core
members of the cast back together again, but it’s mostly believable
sorcery. Darlene (Sara Gilbert), now raising two kids on her own,
including a non-gender-conforming son (Ames McNamara), moves back in
with her parents, partly to make sure they’re taking care of
themselves, but mostly to save money. Becky is still in Lanford and
working as a waitress, so she drops by the house on a regular basis.
So does the Conners’s son D.J. (Michael Fishman), who is recently
out of the military and raising his young African-American daughter
(Jayden Rey) while his wife continues to serve overseas. As for the
second Becky, Sarah Chalke, who took over the role after Goranson left
the show in 1992, even she gets to reemerge in a way that’s handled
cleverly enough to enable viewers to (mostly) overlook the fact that
she was Becky for nearly half of the series’ original run. (Jerry,
the Conners’s fourth child, is said to be on a boat somewhere and
then, at least in the episodes I saw, never mentioned again.)

Seeing all of these actors working together again is one of the
primary pleasures of this reboot. Whether you agree with her politics
or not, Barr still knows how to wield sarcasm like a ninja
demonstrating mastery over a sword. Also, do you ever stop to think
how amazing it is that, for nearly a decade, America was able to watch
John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf on a weekly basis in a sitcom? The
fact that we get to do it again is just a damn gift. Together, Goodman
and Barr instantly reconjure the affection and chemistry that made
Roseanne and Dan such a charming team, even when they’re doing banal
things, like sorting through all the overpriced medications they have
to take. Gilbert, also a producer this time, is not only still gifted
with a swift cutdown, but also just the right amount of sensitive in
dramatic scenes she shares with McNamara, who plays her son Mark.

As grandparents, Roseanne and Dan are loving, but also occasionally
befuddled by their offspring’s offspring. In particular, Dan has a
hard time adjusting to Mark’s penchant for wearing skirts and nail
polish. Roseanne, on the other hand, may not entirely understand why
he dresses the way he does, but she’ll fight to the death for the
kid, as she demonstrates while making a pretty pointed speech to
Mark’s new classmates.

“I’m counting on you guys to make the new kid feel welcome. And if
you don’t, I have ways of finding out about it,” she says, adding,
“I’m a white witch.”

The fact that a character on a 2018 sitcom can be pro-Trump and
supportive of an LGBTQ middle schooler may seem like a contradiction.
But this new Roseanne exists for just that reason: to point out that
such contradictions can and do exist in this country.

Like a lot of grandparents in America, Dan and Roseanne also are
partially playing parental roles again, which adds another layer to
the culturally relevant sense of déjà vu. When Harris talks back to
Darlene in tones Darlene once used with her parents, Dan bemusedly
notes that it’s been 20 years since he’s seen this movie. “The
classics really do hold up,” he says.

Which is true of _Roseanne_ as well, even if it’s reinvented
itself a little for the current moment. It may not be quite as good or
as groundbreaking as the original, but it holds up.

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	* [https://portside.org/node/16887/printable/print]

 

 		 

 		 

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