Roseanne Barr once starred in the most-watched TV show in America. Now she lives on a macadamia nut farm in Hawaii.
It’s been 21 years since the finale of Roseanne and apparently it’s time for a comeback. A Roseanne revival series is coming to ABC on March 27, airing on a Tuesday at 8 p.m. — the same time slot the show ran in during its final seasons. If you had plans to start watching this specific late ’80s/early ’90s American family sitcom, then please stop reading, because I am about to spoil the entire thing.
From 1989 to 1990 Roseanne was the most-watched television show in the United States. Viewers couldn’t get enough of the Conners, a working-class family with very limited income living in Illinois. Roseanne was groundbreaking for its time. It portrayed a blue-collar family that was unabashedly themselves. It also dealt with themes including racism and sexuality (though, looking back on these episodes, it’s clear that the early ’90s writers still had a lot to learn). Roseanne was also a platform for huge stars including John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf.
By season eight the show dropped to being 16th in viewership. In season nine, the final season of the show’s original run, Roseanne took a hard turn.
At the beginning of season nine, the Conner family wins the lottery. Suddenly, the monetary issues that the Conners have faced for the past eight seasons are gone. Free from financial struggle, the characters deal with more emotional problems. In the show’s series finale, it is revealed that the family had never actually won the lottery at all, and that the entire season is a fantasy Roseanne conjured up to cope with the fact that her husband, Dan Conner (Goodman), has died of a heart attack. Yes, the final episode of this beloved family sitcom involves a deep, dark psychological revelation that a character known and loved by audiences everywhere has actually been dead for the entire season.
The ninth season of Roseanne is such an outlier that its ending is not even being taken seriously by writers of the reboot, who are including John Goodman’s character not as a ghost, but as a living, breathing, human being, as if he hadn’t been ripped away from us 21 years ago.
Aside from the life and death of Dan Conner, the politics of Roseanne — and of Roseanne Barr herself — are also up for debate. The character Roseanne often mirrored the comedian herself. The same is true today. In the most recent presidential election, Barr voted for Trump. It was announced that Roseanne, the character, is also a Trump supporter.
“I have always attempted to portray a realistic portrait of American working class people, and it was working class people who elected Trump,” said Barr in an interview during a press tour for the Television Critics Association. “So it was very real and something that needed to be discussed.”
But Barr’s politics are not that simple. In 2012 Barr ran for president on a “Green Tea Party” ticket, later losing the Green Party nomination to Jill Stein. Not to be bested, she then ran on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket and was nominated. According to the Federal Election Commission, Barr received 0.05 percent of the popular vote that year, landing her in sixth place overall.
Despite the fact her views tend to align with liberal ones (right to abortion, opposition of the death penalty and staunch support of gay rights, just to name a few), she still voted for Trump. She has declared that she would be a better president than Oprah, Susan Sarandon, and even Trump himself. In June 2016, Barr told Yahoo that she would be writing herself into every election until she wins.
Roseanne was groundbreaking for its time, but it’s questionable what we can learn now from a white Trump-supporting family taking up space on our screens. With a huge continuity error already foreshadowing the series, it’s unclear how dedicated writers are to producing something worthwhile as opposed to just digging up old characters and pulling in obligatory views from past fans.
Roseanne Barr’s public image has not aged well. It will be interesting to see if the character version is doing any better.