ROSEANNE

U.S. Domestic Comedy

Roseanne evolved from the stand-up comedy act and HBO special of its star and executive producer, Roseanne (formerly Roseanne Barr Arnold). In the act, Roseanne deemed herself a "domestic goddess" and dispensed mock cynical advice about child-rearing: "I figure by the time my husband comes home at night, if those kids are still alive, I've done my job." Roseanne, the program, built a working class family around this matriarchal figure and became an instantaneous hit when it premiered in 1988 on ABC.

Roseanne's immediate success may well have been in reaction to the dominant 1980s domestic situation comedy, The Cosby Show. Like The Cosby Show, Roseanne starred an individual who began as a stand-up comic, but the families in the two programs were polar opposites. Where The Cosby Show portrayed a loving, prosperous family with a strong father figure, Roseanne's Conner family was discordant, adamantly working class and mother-centered.

The Conner family included Roseanne, her husband Dan (John Goodman), sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), daughters Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson, replaced in fall 1993 by Sarah Chalke), and son D.J. (Michael Fishman). Over the years the household expanded to include Becky's husband Mark (Glenn Quinn) and Darlene's boyfriend David (Johnny Galecki) and, in 1995, a new infant for Roseanne and Dan.

The Connors were constantly facing money problems as they both worked in blue-collar jobs--in factories, hanging sheetrock, running a motorcycle shop, and eventually owning their own diner where they served "loose-meat" sandwiches. Their parenting style was often sarcastic, bordering on scornful. Once, when the kids left for school, Roseanne commented, "Quick. They're gone. Change the locks." But caustic remarks such as these were always balanced by scenes of affection and support so that the stability of the family was never truly in doubt. Much as in its working class predecessor, All in the Family, the Conner family was not genuinely dysfunctional, despite all the rancor.

Roseanne often tested the boundaries of network standards and practices. One episode dealt with the young son's masturbation. In others, Roseanne frankly discussed birth control with Becky and explained her choice to have breast reduction surgery. The program also featured gay and lesbian characters, which made ABC nervous--especially when a lesbian character kissed Roseanne. The network initially refused to air that episode until Roseanne, the producer, demanded they do so.

Controversy attended the program off screen as well. During its first season there were well publicized squabbles among the producing team, which led to firings and Roseanne assuming principal control of the program. Subsequently, Roseanne battled ABC over its handling of her then-husband Tom Arnold's sitcom, The Jackie Thomas Show. Dwarfing these professional controversies has been the strife in Roseanne's publicly available personal life. Among the events that have been chronicled in the tabloid press are her tumultuous marriage to and divorce from Arnold (amid accusations of spousal abuse), the reconciliation with the daughter she put up for adoption (which was forced by a tabloid newspaper's threat to reveal the story), her charges of being abused as a child, struggles with addictions to food and other substances, and a misfired parody of the national anthem at a baseball game (1990).

-Jeremy Butler


Roseanne

CAST

Roseanne Conner.......................................... Roseanne
Dan Conner ............................................John Goodman
Becky Conner
(1988-1992, 1995-1996)......Lecy Goranson
Becky Conner
(1993-1995)........................ Sarah Chalke
Darlene Conner
........................................... Sara Gilbert
D.J. (David Jacob) Conner
(pilot)................... Sal Barone
D.J. Conner
........................................ Michael Fishman
Jackie Harris
...........................................Laurie Metcalf
Crystal Anderson
(1988-1992)..................... Natalie West
Booker Brooks
(1988-1989)................... George Clooney
Pete Wilkins
(1988-1989) ............................Ron Perkins
Juanita Herrera
(1988-1989) ................Evalina Fernandez
Sylvia Foster
(1988-1989).......................... Anne Falkner
Ed Conner
(1989-) ........................................Ned Beatty
Bev Harris
(1989-) .................................Estelle Parsons
Mark Healy
(1990-) .....................................Glenn Quinn
David Healy
(1992-) ..................................Johnny Galeki
Grandma Nanna (1991-) ...........................Shelly Winters
Leon Carp
(1991-) .........................................Martin Mull
Bonnie
(1991-1992)............................... Bonnie Sheridan
Nancy
(1991-)...................................... Sandra Bernhard
Fred
(1993-)......................................... Michael O'Keefe

PRODUCERS  Marcy Carsey, Tom Werner, Roseanne

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

ABC
October 1988-February 1989               Tuesday 8:30-9:00
February 1989-September 1994           Tuesday 9:00-9:30
September 1994-March 1995          Wednesday 9:00-9:30
March 1995-May 1995                   Wednesday 8:00-8:30
May 1995-September 1995           Wednesday 9:30-10:00
September 1995-                           Wednesday 8:00-8:30

FURTHER READING

Arnold, Roseanne. My Lives. New York: Ballantine, 1994.

Dresner, Zita Z. "Roseanne Barr: Goddess or She-devil." Journal of American Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio), Summer 1993.

Dworkin, Susan. "Roseanne Barr: The Disgruntled Housewife as Stand-up Comedian." Ms. Magazine (New York), July-August 1987.

Rich, Frank. "What Now My Love." The New York Times, 6 March 1994.

Rowe, Kathleen. The Unruly Woman: Gender and Genres of Laughter. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 1995.

Givens, Ron. "A Real Stand-up Mom." Newsweek (New York), 31 October 1988.

Klaus, Barbara. "The War of the Roseanne: How I Survived Three Months in the Trenches Writing for TV's Sitcom Queen." New York, 22 October 1990.

Lee, Janet. "Subversive Sitcoms: Roseanne as Inspiration for Feminist Resistance." Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal (Claremont, California), 1992.

Mayerle, Judine. "Roseanne-How Did You Get Inside My House? A Case Study of a Hit Blue-Collar Situation Comedy." Journal of Popular Culture (Bowling Green, Ohio), Spring 1991.

Volk, Patricia. "Really Roseanne." The New York Times Magazine, 8 August 1993.

 

See also Comedy, Domestic Settings; Family on Television; Gender and Television; Roseanne