In this era of rehashed material and regurgitated plot lines, the reboot of Roseanne (which starts tonight on ABC) proves some shows get better with age. Back when the show debut in 1987, Roseanne quickly set itself apart from anything on television by giving the world a glimpse of middle-class America. Instead of the stereotypical female leads, Roseanne was a brash mother/wife who would let anyone have it who wasn’t pulling their weight around the house. The success of this show paved the way for writers to develop a new type of female lead (ex. The Middle and Married With Children).
Roseanne seamlessly picks up its tenth season quickly addressing the death of Dan Conner (John Goodman) cleverly. The first episode uses the last presidential election an effective plot device. The Conners have aged and went from a liberal mindset to more of a slightly open-minded conservative. Roseanne’s sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) hasn’t changed, and her support for Hillary Clinton ignited a feud which remains unresolved at the beginning of the new season. The argument quickly pivots from about their election choices to one which is ideologically based. Jackie is still a dreamer, and Roseanne is dealing with the harsh reality of almost losing their home.
The reboot doesn’t shy away from dealing with various controversial topics. Becky (Lecy Goranson) announces she’s planning on becoming a surrogate so she can use the money to help get out of debt. Roseanne is immediately conflicted – she agrees that it’s Becky’s body, but she doesn’t want her grandkids with someone else. Darlene’s (Sara Gilbert) son Mark (Ames McNamara) isn’t conforming and wants to wear girls clothing to school which is okay with his mom but might give Dan a stroke. The show doesn’t attempt to find answers but highlights how life is full complexities and contradictions.
One of my initial concerns was the reboot would rely on some of the same gags used during Roseanne’s first run. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty of zingers and sarcasm to go around, but the Conner family has evolved. Writers Bruce Rasmussen and Sid Youngers strike a remarkable balance between humor and heart. Comedians Whitney Cummings and Wanda Sykes also assisted in the process.
The standout performances so far (ABC only provided three episodes) have to be from Gilbert and Goodman. Gilbert projects such guilt about being a “failure” to her children. Goodman is seemingly conflicted at every turn. He grew up in a different era and has trouble relating to his grandchildren. The ensemble is still strong as ever. While the reboot is off to a great start, one can’t help but wonder how long they intend to keep the show going. If we are lucky, it sticks around for the foreseeable future.