by Julian Spivey
You know that famous Roseanne laugh that you hear at the end of the opening credits of her show that shares her name?
I’m sure it’s the same laugh she has right now at all of those up in arms about the success of the show’s return. Hell, it’s probably the same laugh had by ABC executives after 25 million (18 million in real time) watched the show’s premiere last Tuesday.
It’s pretty much a fact that the real Roseanne is a loon. She’s batshit crazy. Anybody who’s ever viewed her Twitter profile for 10 seconds could tell you that. She’s offensive. And, unfortunately, she’s likely mentally ill. But, she’s the lead of an all-time great television sitcom in an era when networks are banking on the returns of classic television sitcoms to help bring eyeballs to television.
Roseanne has called out Parkland survivors on social media, dressed up like Adolf Hitler to sell cookies (at least I think that’s what she was doing), believes in crazy pro-Donald Trump conspiracy theories, has equated Islam with Nazism, and you could go on and on. Simply put, Roseanne as a person is not a very good one.
“Roseanne” as a television show is hilarious. It’s very popular. And, it’s not going anywhere. In fact, ABC took all of three days to renew the revival for an expanded second season. ABC is a business and cares about ratings and money. “Roseanne” is providing those in a BIG way. I’m sure Roseanne’s politics and offensive antics are going to cause executives at the network a major headache and they’re going to have to do everything they can to try to reign her in, something that may not be possible for her. They deserve these headaches too. But, if those viewers are rolling in every week they won’t mind it all that much. If those viewers stop rolling in you can bet they’ll cancel the show in a heartbeat.
The backlash against Roseanne the person is deserved, but what’s bothersome is those online who are essentially trying to bully ABC into canceling it because of it’s stars idiocy. I’m certainly struggling with this. I’ve loved the show “Roseanne” since I was a kid watching re-runs of it on Nick at Nite or wherever else you could find it on cable. I didn’t know at the time it’s star was a loon. Like many people in this country her looney-ness seems to have been building over the last decade or so. And, so I must try to separate “Roseanne” the television show from Roseanne the actress/comedian/personality. I believe you can separate art from the person. It might be hard. Luckily, it’s not something I believe I’ve ever had to experience until now, but it can be done.
Many of those 25 million who tuned into watch “Roseanne” last week just wanted to see a funny TV show that they’ve loved for many years. I’m sure many, if not most of them don’t even know a thing about Roseanne’s politics and offensiveness. They just want to laugh at punchlines between the Conners. That doesn’t make them bad people. It doesn’t make them enablers. TVLine’s Michael Ausiello wrote a great piece this week on continuing to watch “Roseanne” even though it makes him a hypocrite (his word and I believe he’s being a little harsh) in: “Roseanne Revival: I’m a Hypocrite Who Hates Himself for Loving It.” He does a good job pointing out that even though the star of the show is a Trump supporter the show itself is quite inclusive: DJ is in an interracial relationship and Darlene’s son is gender fluid. Also, Darlene actress Sara Gilbert (gay and working with Roseanne just fine despite their differences), and executive producer on the revival, said that after the show’s premiere last week there won’t be a single mention of Trump on the rest of its season.
How about we as Americans stop trying to kill off stuff that offends us? Yes, there are some things we should try to end – bigotry is tops on this list. But, the show “Roseanne” isn’t a medium for Roseanne the person’s beliefs. It’s an ensemble work that includes a cast of vast differences and beliefs. Just because we don’t agree with Roseanne’s beliefs in real life doesn’t mean we should call or tweet ABC and demand them end her show. I despise Ted Nugent, but I’ve never once called, tweeted or emailed my local classic rock radio station demanding they quit playing “Cat Scratch Fever.” I don’t do that because it’s frankly asinine. What do I do when I hear Nugent come on? I turn the dial. You can too. You don’t have to watch “Roseanne” if you don’t want to for any reason. That should be enough for you.
And, don’t give me this stuff about how ABC is suddenly becoming pro-Trump. This is the same network, after all, that features the terrific sitcom “Black-ish” (maybe the best sitcom on network television), which has had some of its best material being anti-Trump. It’s also the same network that less than a year ago canceled the Tim Allen-led “Last Man Standing,” which was way more conservative and political than the revival of “Roseanne” will be. We can have television shows that skew both ways on our screens. For what it’s worth, I bet the political lines for “Roseanne” viewers are split right down the middle.
by Julian Spivey
The Conner family returned to ABC on Tuesday night more than 20 years after “Roseanne” ended with a whimper of a series finale. It was nice to have one of America’s all-time greatest sitcom families back on television, even if we agree with some of them less than ever.
As most fans of “Roseanne” remember the final season in which the Conners won the lottery and deviated from the previous eight seasons ended with the bombshell that the entire season had been part of a novel Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) had written and her husband Dan (John Goodman) had died from a heart attack suffered the previous season. Over the year’s its been deemed one of the worst series finales of all-time.
It took two decades, but the show got the chance to fix this bad ending by essentially ignoring it, starting out with a terrific joke where Roseanne and Dan are in bed and Roseanne thinks he’s passed on before he awakes (pulling his CPAP mask off in a truly great moment).
While the premiere of the revival re-introduces us to all the show’s main characters and tells us what they’ve been up to in the two decades since the series left off it mostly revolves around the same damn thing that all our lives seem to these days – politics and whether you side with our current President or not. Roseanne voted for Donald Trump and this is a road that I wish the show didn’t go down (the real Roseanne is also pro-Trump), but the show does a fantastic job in keeping it real with Roseanne having not seen his sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) for the last year do to a feud over the election. President Trump and the 2016 election is something that has ripped real families apart and the show is able to find the humor in this all, even if it’s a topic that hard to laugh at. Most of the funniest moments in the first episode of the two-episode premiere come from Jackie poking at her Trump-loving sister, but I suspect pro-Trump folks might find Roseanne’s pokes at Jackie to be the highlights.
I hope that if you’re letting Roseanne’s politics – whether in real life or in this fictional show – keep you from watching the return that you re-consider. You’re missing good television if you can’t get past that.
It’s truly fantastic that “Roseanne” was able to be fresh and current with the storylines in the first two episodes – the second revolving around Darlene’s son Mark who likes to dress feminine – while also feeling like the same show we loved from 1988-1997 when it revolutionized television by bringing the daily life of a middle class, white trash family to television.
The Conner children all look old these days, well because they are. Lecy Goranson, who plays the eldest Becky, is 43-yeard old, which comes as a shock when the character admits it. But, we must keep in mind it’s been 30 years since the show debuted. Becky has the biggest storyline thus far of the three Conner children as she’s going to be surrogate for Sarah Chalke’s Andrea for $50,000 in hopes of getting her life together. If you’re thinking, “wait, didn’t Chalke also play Becky on the original run of ‘Roseanne’?” you’d be correct. The show wanted to use both actresses, and this is a creative way of using them. Darlene (Sara Gilbert) is back living with her parents with her two children in tow after losing her job and moving back to Lanford from Chicago. D.J. (Michael Fishman) is recently home from serving in the military in Syria and raising his daughter while his wife continues to serve overseas. Fishman almost has nothing to do in the first two episodes, in fact he doesn’t even appear in the second.
The relationships between Roseanne and Dan and Roseanne and Jackie were always the most interesting aspect of “Roseanne” for me and these relationships are still perfect. I do hope the return of the show gives Goodman more to do in upcoming episodes.
The one critique of the show, and it’s a small one, is that some of the acting seems a little unnatural and I’m not really surprised. Goodman and Metcalf, who recently received an Oscar nomination for her fine supporting turn in “Lady Bird,” are the only cast members who’ve really acted in the last two decades. Roseanne, Goranson, Gilbert and Fishman haven’t remained too active, if active at all, in the acting business and it kind of shows at points. But, because we love these characters it’s not something to dwell on much.
I look forward to the rest of the run of this series, which like NBC’s revival of “Will & Grace” will probably be a hit for audiences looking for nostalgia, while also being fresh. If it does work well maybe we’ll see even more “Roseanne” on down the line.
by Julian Spivey
I’m an odd fan of “The X-Files.” I was too young to see its original run, but one summer caught a few re-runs on BBC America and instantly liked it. It had a great mixture of science fiction and horror with two fascinating leads in David Duchovny as Fox Mulder, a believe in all things supernatural, and Gillian Anderson as Dana Scully, the skeptic who always believed there was a scientific answer to the strangeness of it all. Shortly after I began watching, BBC America stopped carrying the series in syndication. I planned to watch the series via some streaming service, but never got around to it. When Fox revived “The X-Files” two years ago I tuned in, but like many I was mostly disappointed in the six-episode season – despite the fantastic episode that was “Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monsters.” In the two years since I still haven’t found the time to stream the entire series. But, once again when an eleventh season was brought back this winter I tuned in. This season was much better and included one of the best episodes I’ve seen in “The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat” (I realize many fans despised it) and a few other fun hours in “This,” “Kitten” and “Familiar.” So, I’m an odd ‘X-Files’ fan because I’ve probably seen less than a quarter of the series overall. I promise I will stream the remainder; hopefully as soon as this summer.
Coming into this season we knew it could likely be the show’s last because Anderson has steadfastly said she’s done with the series. They’ve done the show before without one of its leads as the final two seasons of the original run didn’t feature much from Duchovny, but it just isn’t the same or a good idea without both Mulder and Scully. The season had wrapped up before Anderson announced she wouldn’t return so this lead me to worrying about the ending of the season, as it could be and should be the end of the series too if Anderson can’t be convinced to do more.
After “My Struggle IV” aired on Wednesday (March 21) I was left mostly satisfied with it as a series finale for “The X-Files.” Based on reviews I’ve read since I understand many critics and fans aren’t too thrilled with it, but the last half of the episode especially gave me a bow on top that I could live with. Now, again I’m an odd fan of the show and my opinion might be differently had I seen the entirety of the series beforehand.
I agree with critics that there were some truly strange things about this finale and really all four ‘My Struggle’ episodes from the last two seasons that saw Scully and Mulder searching for and finding their long-lost son. For instance, much of the finale and the season 11 premiere simply feature Mulder driving around fast in a Ford Mustang as if he were in a Hollywood action film. It all comes off more like a car commercial than anything. I also found it odd and frankly a waste of time that Mulder shot up the mysterious man, who apparently runs some sort of space flight company, office and bodyguards – again a sequence that felt more in place with a dumb Hollywood action flick than with ‘X-Files.’
Once all that was out of the way the finale began to get better and more interesting. Mulder finally catches up to his son, William, in a hotel outside of Norfolk, but they have been tracked there by a unit of soldiers led by Barbara Hershey’s Erika Price. Having no other option William, who has supernatural powers by the way, kills all the soldiers by essentially exploding them with his mind in the most gruesome scene I’ve ever seen from the series.
Things get a bit hazy between this point and the end, but William gets away from Mulder and Mulder tracks him to an abandoned warehouse, where he is joined by Scully and Agent Skinner (Mitch Pileggi). Unfortunately, the show’s biggest villain the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis) has also arrived needing William to complete his plan of world domination. As Mulder and Scully try to find William in the warehouse it’s complicated by the fact that William can alter his appearance (again supernatural powers) and does so to look like Mulder. This results in a scene where Scully believing she’s talking to Mulder, but it’s William is told to give up on the boy and that he knows she loves him. When the real Mulder shows up she realizes this is William and he bolts to the end of a dock (where he’s turned his appearance back to that of Mulder) and is met by the Cigarette Smoking Man (believing him to be Mulder) and shoots him through the head. The real Mulder seeing this gets immediate revenge by putting multiple bullets into the Cigarette Smoking Man. Scully arrives and the two comfort each other. Scully reveals to Mulder what Skinner had shown her that William wasn’t his son, but the son of the Cigarette Smoking Man through experimentation. Struggling with the realization of this Scully then hits Mulder with the fact that she’s pregnant with his child for real this time. This gives the show a somewhat satisfying end that would be better than continuing without Scully. Though, I understand most fans would’ve liked to have seen something else. The ball is in creator Chris Carter’s court now, but if he does want to continue the show I hope somehow, someway he can convince Anderson to return.