There are lots of great reasons to love “Roseanne” – the show, not the woman, although she's loveable as well, not in spite of being slightly insane but because of it. I grew up watching “Roseanne,” however. My blue-collar family and I sat down every week and watched it together. I grew up with the Connor kids, saw resemblances to my mom in Roseanne and my dad in Dan; I saw resemblances to my family in general. Rather than babble about why right now, though, take a look at my top reasons to love “Roseanne” and see if you agree.
One of the best reasons to love “Roseanne” is definitely its realism. The Very Special Episodes didn't deal with After School Special messages in the same ways as other sitcoms, like “Full House” and “Family Matters.” When Dan and Roseanne found weed in the house, they smoked it. Roseanne had to come to terms with things like spanking her son and deciding what to do if there was something wrong with her last child. There was infidelity, hardships, teenage depression. Seriously, Darlene Connor was the only girl on TV who let me know that I would, in fact, make it through my 15th year without some disaster.
In the same vein, “Roseanne” portrayed blue-collar middle-America better than any show ever has to date. We lived in West Virginia when this was on, but we still understood exactly what the Connors were going through when their car crapped out and they couldn't fix it, when they had to decide whether they needed to pay the mortgage or the electric bill. Watching them, I knew that even though my family didn't have a lot of money, we weren't weird or strange or bad, and I didn't need to be ashamed. When Dan lost his bike shop, my dad was right there with him. When Roseanne hustled somehow to get her kids something they wanted or needed, my mom understood every motive.
Roseanne herself was one of the first and only overweight women on network TV who wasn't just the sad friend in a background role – and she made sure that every body type got represented at some point. Jackie was thin but flat chested, proving to people all over the world that, yes, someone always has a problem area they hate. Dan was happily large and jolly but Roseanne never loved him less, proving to guys who watched the show that they did not, in fact, have to look like George Clooney. And call me crazy, but I always thought Roseanne was beautiful – because of her laugh and her humor and her sarcasm.
Say what you will about Roseanne the actress, but in the 1990s, especially, she was all about girl power. Many episodes focused on that theme, from Jackie leaving an abusive boyfriend to Nancy learning how to tell her creepster ex-husband to back off and get lost. She showed women in a hugely positive light, proving that mothers will shovel crap all day if it means taking care of their families. Her show also featured many of the first LGBT characters – and they starred! In prime time! And they were largely realistic! Even Nancy's sudden announcement made sense to me, because I know what it's like to fight your natural sexuality and date guys before you're comfortable enough to come out. Nancy, Leon, Bev – they were wonderful characters, and they were never made to feel ashamed of themselves.
To this day, watching reruns of shows like “Full House” bugs me to death. Nothing really bad ever happened in those genre sitcoms. Bad things happened in “Roseanne” all the time – and although the family and their circle of friends generally worked through it, they never did so in neat, 30 minute spans. Dan had an emotional affair. At alternate times, he and Roseanne lost their jobs and were broke as jokes. Becky ran away and eloped, leaving her father, especially, angry and hurt. Roseanne and Jackie's father physically abused them, an actual recurring theme; ditto Dan's issues with his absentee father. There was continuity, there were problems, and those problems were actually dealt with in realistic ways.
The Connors are my favorite TV couple. Watching their dynamic always pleased me to no end. Like my parents, on occasion, they loved each other in very loud voices. They fought. They argued. They got so pissed off at each other – but they never quit. It made me realize that not every fight leads to a breakup, or a divorce. It made me realize, too, that no couple is ever perfect.
Until the last season, nearly every storyline on the show was sheer perfection. I was never bored, not even during the gimmick episodes. I won't say I was bored during the lottery episodes either, but they were largely stupid until the family was finally together again. And although the finale broke my heart into a million pieces, to the point where I still can't watch it without crying, I think the last 15 minutes of the 9-season run were just beautifully done.
This one is a little trite, admittedly, but come on. Over the years, “Roseanne” featured a very young George Clooney, Debbie Reynolds, Ned Beatty, the inestimable Shelley Winters, Traci Lords, Heather Matarazzo, Morgan Fairchild, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, James Pickens, Jr. (shout-out, Grey's Anatomy fans!), Fred Willard, and Joan Collins. That's not even counting the last-season episode featuring Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley as Edina and Patsy, along with Mo Gaffney. Sheer brilliance!
I still love “Roseanne.” My DVR is set up to record every repeat, because watching it reminds me of growing up, of all the things my little family went through together. Is there a TV show or movie that reminds you of your family? Share some of your stories and experiences!
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