Can Roseanne Make America Great Again?

Nostalgic television is on the rise. Shows from the 1990s like Full House, X-Files and Will & Grace have all rebooted. Murphy Brown is also coming back. But it’s really not surprising that people are nostalgic for the 90s – things then were much simpler compared to today. There were no smartphones or iPads sucking our focus, causing us to walk into walls. Social media didn’t exist, we actually talked to people. The thought of a driverless car would have sent people into hysterics. Same with suicide bombers. Legalizing gay marriage seemed impossible. The Internet was just starting to be a thing, if you can call AOL on a “dial-up” modem the Internet. Our government (mostly) functioned. Except for the Gulf War, the nineties were a time of peace and prosperity. Who doesn’t miss that?

The 90s also saw a great many sitcoms (it was the decade of Seinfeld and Friends) before losing TV’s throne to reality shows that were often funnier and much cheaper to make. Sitcoms featuring blue-collar workers and families like Cheers, Married… with Children and King of Queens were popular simply because they felt more relatable and less aspirational. Just like Roseanne. We identified with the working class Conners, a family struggling financially while they loved/hated/loved each other. For many of us, Roseanne felt like home.

After going off the air in 1997 and having won three Emmy awards, the show is back and perhaps even more relevant to today’s divided nation than ever. The topics are the same (reproductive rights, sexual harassment, LGBTQ issues and politics) but the frame through which we view them in 2018 is stunningly different. And depressing. We sure could use a few jokes about what’s going on in our country right about now.

In real life, actress and comedian Roseanne Barr is a vocal supporter of America’s 45th President, Donald Trump. To give the show authenticity, her TV alter ego also believes Trump can “make America great again.” Her family, however, doesn’t share her point of view. In episode 1, we learn that Roseanne isn’t speaking to her sister Jackie (the now Oscar-nominated Laurie Metcalf). The reason for the family feud? The election.

Anyone who had a difficult Thanksgiving or Christmas due to screaming matches with family members over #45 can relate. This stuff is real and cuts deep. Most of us learned to avoid speaking about politics at the dinner table – but it’s so hard to keep our mouths shut. Roseanne and Jackie mirror our exact frustrations over our inability to see each other’s point of view.

On ABC’s 20/20, Barr said, “Trump offended half of America, and [Hillary Clinton] offended the other half. So that’s great for sitcoms. It’s great for comedy. We’re lucky to have him as a president. It’s great for comedy.

She’s right about that.

However, there is a #BoycottRoseanne finding its way into liberals’ tweets on social media. But she doesn’t need to worry about a boycott because the first episode is incredibly funny and smart – just like the show used to be. And who can resist checking in with the Conners 20 years later?

All the Conners are back, including both Beckys, (Becky Prime: Lecy Goranson, and the Second Becky: Sarah Chalke). Becky Prime is now a waitress who’s considering being a surrogate mom for Andrea (Second Becky), a wealthy woman unable or unwilling to carry her baby in her own body.

In the nineties, Roseanne didn’t shy away from addressing abortion. Though still a hot issue, we now live in the time of super fancy biology, where children can have three genetic parents or be carried to term by a woman with no shared genes at all. As much as the science has advanced, the social implications resonate, too. Once again, it’s the working class whose bodies are being used by the wealthy. It will be interesting if the show plays out the surrogate pregnancy, which it’s likely to do or why have Second Becky come back at all?

Little D.J. (Michael Fishman) is all grown up and back from the military; his wife, however, is still serving abroad. The show could be setting up a PTSD storyline – something very much needed considering 20 veterans commit suicide each day. Sometimes it takes comedy and humor to approach life’s darkest topics and if any show can go there, it’s Roseanne.

Darlene (Sara Gilbert) returns as a single mom with two kids, back in the Connor home after losing her job. Her tween son Mark (Ames McNamara) likes to paint his nails and wear clothing typically worn by girls. It’s priming a possible transgender storyline, but it’s probably not politically correct to assume that’s what it means. He could just be a boy who likes to wear girls’ clothes because, well, that exists too.

Oh, and did we mention that Dan (John Goodman) is no longer dead? It’s a TV miracle!

As much as we’re attracted to all the dazzling new streaming shows, sometimes it’s just as exciting to revisit an old friend. Roseanne feels like spending time with an old friend whose connection is still strong and deep, despite not seeing them for twenty years.

The Roseanne reboot premieres March 27, 8 pm, E.S.T. on ABC. The episode is one-hour so set your DVRs accordingly.

Watch the trailer below.


Shanee Edwards graduated from UCLA Film School with an MFA in Screenwriting and is currently the film critic for SheKnows.com. She recently won the Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer. Her pilot, Ada and the Machine, is currently in development with America Ferrera’s Take Fountain Productions. You can follow her on Twitter: @ShaneeEdwards


 

Photo credit: ABC


For all the latest from The Script Lab, be sure to follow us on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram.