ROSEANNE airs Tuesdays at 8 pm on CTV. Episodes available to stream on CTV.ca and via the CTV GO app.
The reboot of Roseanne opens with a voice-over you probably havent heard in 20 years: Roseanne is taped in front of a live studio audience.
Its a throwback to an era of TV when sitcoms nixed canned laughter in favour of the real thing. Think of it as a proto form of audience engagement.
It also plunges viewers into a hot bath of classic sitcom nostalgia. Theres much about the premiere episode of the new Roseanne that plants itself in the here and now: Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) voted for the 45 (the presidents name is never mentioned on the show), which causes a year-long rift with sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), a pussy-hat-wearing liberal youngest son D.J. (Michael Fishman) served in the army, where he was deployed to Syria and middle child Darlene (the shows executive producer, Sara Gilbert) is supportively raising a son whose clothing doesnt adhere to the gender binary.
But there are also a good amount of Easter eggs in episode one that simply hearken back to Roseannes original run. Heres a guide to the old Roseanne references that pop up in the reboot and what they mean.
In both the opening scene and the titles, Roseanne is wearing the classic chicken sweater. In the series original run, this piece of clothing was an inside joke among the cast. Every character in the immediate Connor family wore it at least once. It was rumoured that Roseanne Barrs ex-husband, Tom Arnold (who played Dans bumbling friend Arnie), despised it its reoccurrence was Barr sticking it to him.
For her part, Barr called the sweaters ugliness a rebellious artistic statement and the actors wore it as a challenge: they wanted to prove that even if you wear something tacky on TV, it will take off in popular culture.
Yes, Dan (John Goodman) still dresses like a lumberjack: flannel, workboots, puffer vest, jeans. His style was more functional than fashion: he worked in construction in the series first few seasons. But its interesting to read Dans style through the lens of the lumbersexual revolution that has since occurred. On Dan, the lumberjack look is a visual symbol of his working-class status on someone who lives in Queen West, its an obvious sign of urban privilege. Dans plaid embodies larger questions about how the bourgeoisie commodifies the culture of the proletariat: you can literally feel the class tension emanating through the screen.
The opening titles feature the same rotating shot of the Connors gathered at the dinner table. During the original run, the family engaged in a different activity depending on the season. In season one, theyre arguing over a bill. In season three, theyre playing poker. In season five, theyre eating pizza. In the new 10th season, theyre eating Mexican takeout.
This Easter egg was pretty well hidden so never mind the fact that Im overreaching to retrieve it. Roseanne is a Trump supporter Trump proposed building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. But the show aims to depict a blue-collar America that isnt as one-dimensional as the liberal media portrayed the working-class Trump voter to be. (Or was that fake news?) The deliberate choice of a Mexican dinner points to the fact that the Connors may have voted Trump, but they dont agree with all of his politics.
DJs daughter is Black, and episode one gets half a point for not going out of its way to explain it (although Im sure that if the situation were reversed and a Black TV family had a white child, the series would have to spend an entire season making sure viewers were comfortable with it).
On the other hand, daughter Mary (Jayden Rey) also speaks about half a line. The season is going to have to up her dialogue or else itll start racking up minuses for including a token character. Roseanne mentions DJs wife, Gina. This is a reference to season seven, episode nine, White Men Cant Kiss. In it, DJ refuses to kiss his Black classmate, Gina Williams, for a scene in the school play because she just looks real different.
By that episodes end, both Dan and Roseanne have to confront their own bigotry. But, hey, DJ winds up marrying Gina, so the Connors are exonerated from their racism. Im fond of this family, but Im going to go ahead and take that half point back.
Roseanne has always been a pretty sarcastic show, but its emotional gut punches often came from Darlene. The heroine of teenage angst, she could at times be vulnerable and at times righteously frank. The reboot finds her moving back home with her two kids, supposedly to look after the aging Dan and Roseanne, but her true motive is revealed midway through the episode.
At one point, she accuses older sister Becky (Lecy Goranson) of selfishness for not stepping up to take care of the family even as it falls apart. She begins with: Mom and Jackie are fighting…. This line is directly lifted from season three, episode 15, Becky Doesnt Live Here Anymore. In it, Darlene accuses Becky, who is rebelling, of selfishness after she runs away to Aunt Jackies house. The tone of both scenes is similar, but its inclusion in the reboot is an underwhelming shortcut: it reminds viewers of the fractious relationship between the two sisters without having to do any of the emotional heavy lifting of the original.
Both of the actresses, Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke, who played eldest child Becky return for the reboot. Goranson reprises her original role, while Chalke plays Andrea, a middle-class woman who hires Becky to be her surrogate. In the original, their alternating appearances were a running gag. When they finally share screen time in the reboot, Chalke, in character, remarks that Goranson looks just like her before I put on my makeup.
Most critics reviled the original series finale, Into The Good Night, which reversed the events of that controversial season the Connors jumped the shark I mean won the lottery by revealing it was a fictional story by Roseanne, a long-aspiring writer. Over her typewriter, she reveals that the marital affair that sent Dan away for most of the season was fiction. In actuality, he died after his heart attack in the season eight episode The Wedding.
The reboot pokes fun at his resurrection a couple times during the first episode, but the most Easter eggy moment comes when Dan and Roseanne are out in the garage. Dan picks up Roseannes dusty manuscript, remarking, This would have sold like hotcakes if you hadnt killed off the most interesting character. Dan reverses the reversal, revealing that his death was actually the fictional element. So does that mean his affair was real?