March 28, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Roseanne”


ROSEANNE:  Tuesday 8PM on ABC – In the Queue

Television continues its remembrance of things past with ABC’s reboot of ROSEANNE, which last aired a new episode in 1997.  Like NBC’s Will & Grace, this Roseanne is a skillful resuscitation that features the original cast (although in this case, not the original writing staff), and has some fun with its own meta-ness:  the premiere has gags about its own bizarre final original season, in which Dan Conner (John Goodman) was dead, and Darlene actress Sara Gilbert’s real-life sexuality, and it also features both actresses who played Becky, Alicia Goranson in her original role, and Sarah Chalke as a wealthy woman hiring her to be a surrogate.  (They claim to see each other as lookalikes, which they never were.)

Also like Will & Grace, the new Roseanne blends familiar, slightly antique multi-camera sitcom style with topicality.  Roseanne herself (Roseanne Barr) is an ostentatious Trump voter, although the show is careful to surround her with other characters like Darlene and Roseanne’s sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) whose politics are strongly opposed, and the opening episode (written by Co-Executive Producer Bruce Rasmussen and directed by John Pasquin) soft-pedals the level of Roseanne’s current support for the President.  The second premiere episode (written by Co-EP Darlene Hunt and directed by Pasquin) is mostly concerned with Roseanne’s grandson Mark (Ames McNamara), who prefers to wear skirts, and the family’s concerned but ultimately supportive reaction.

There’s obviously a substantial audience for these reboots, and one can put whatever sociopolitical spin on that as one finds appropriate.  In 2018, compared to social commentary comedy like Black-ish, Roseanne feels a bit dated and strained, but it was never a show known for its subtlety.  Roseanne Barr herself, having gone through decades of showbiz wars, seems delighted to be back in the role that was literally made for her, John Goodman is as smooth a partner as ever, and the supporting cast seems completely comfortable in its old surroundings.  (Among the newcomers, it’s fun to see Emma Kenney of Shameless fit effortlessly into the Conner family as another of Roseanne’s grandchildren.)  The scripts drip with the warmhearted sarcasm that was the show’s defining tone.  For people who want to feel as though they’re watching network television in the early 1990s, Roseanne will scratch that itch, even if there’s no way it can duplicate the excitement of its original proudly working-class voice, especially since its lead characters are now at retirement age.  If nothing else, it’s a far more effective vehicle for family comedy than the up-to-date but weak Splitting Up Together that premiered the same evening.

Hollywood’s specialty is digging a good thing into the ground, so there are plenty more dusty revivals to come, including Roseanne‘s contemporaries Mad About You and Murphy Brown.  At this rate, we can start setting our DVRs for the return of Veronica’s Closet.

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."