1 9 8 8 – 1 9 9 7 (USA)
222 x 30 minute episodes
Roseanne was the biggest new hit on TV during the late 1980s and evolved from the stand-up comedy act and HBO special of its star and executive producer, Roseanne Barr.
In the act, this self-styled “domestic goddess” 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.”
The TV programme built a blue-collar family in the fictitious town of Lanford, Illinois around this matriarchal figure and became an instantaneous hit when it premiered in 1988 on ABC.
The Conner family included Roseanne, her husband Dan (John Goodman), sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), daughters Darlene (Sara Gilbert – sister of Melissa Gilbert) and Becky (Lecy Goranson, replaced in 1993 by Sarah Chalke), and son DJ (Michael Fishman).
Both Roseanne and her co-star John Goodman were ‘larger’ people and did not have the traditional TV looks or glamour, but it worked extremely well.
The Conner family were chronically short of money and had a large family to feed and mortgage payments to keep up. Their fortunes wavered constantly as Dan was an intermittently employed small-time contractor (until he eventually opened a motorcycle shop).
Roseanne and her sister, Jackie, initially worked at a plastics plant but moved on to various other jobs (including a stint for Jackie as a police officer). Eventually, the sisters opened their own diner, the Lanford Lunch Box.
The Conner children were all refreshingly dysfunctional in some way – Becky was the boy-crazed oldest child, Darlene, the tomboy, and DJ, a six-year-old who idolised his dad.
Roseanne was a loving mother, though certainly no soft touch – when she got home from work each day, she never failed to have a foul word for her kids.
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.
Roseanne and Dan’s parenting style was often sarcastic, bordering on scornful. Once, when the kids left for school, Roseanne commented, “Quick. They’re gone. Change the locks.”
With employment precarious, the Conners needed to keep laughing. Fortunately, they took us along for the laughs.
The programme 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.
By 1995 Roseanne had become the most powerful woman on US television, earning an estimated $1 million per episode.
The show turned in a completely different direction when the Conners suddenly won $108 million playing the Illinois State Lottery.
Suddenly the series became unrealistic and people could no longer relate to the experiences and struggles of Roseanne and clan. Episodes became centred around finding the meaning of life, dealing with people who wanted their wealth and spending money on expensive things and experiences.
Their problems became the problems of rich people instead of the problems of working-class people that the show was always centred around.
Many people left the show behind, and by the time we discovered that the whole story-line was supposed to be Roseanne’s semi-fictional story of her life – and the Conners never actually won the lotto – viewers didn’t care anymore and the show was over anyway.
- Roseanne was originally titled Life and Stuff by series creator Matt Williams.
- The Conners’ address was 714 Delaware Street, Lanford.
- The word “corn” was supposed to be mentioned in every episode. It was mentioned in about the first 15 episodes.
- DJ’s full name, David Jacob, is mentioned in only two episodes.
Lecy Goranson (1)
Sarah Chalke (2)
DJ (David Jacob) Conner