By MARK LINDSLEY
More than 20 years after the end of their ninth season, “Roseanne” and its star Roseanne Barr are back. The rest of the Conners are back too, including her previously deceased husband Dan, played by John Goodman, and both of the actresses who played the role of her daughter Becky, Alicia Goranson and Sarah Chalke.
Goranson has now reclaimed the role of Becky, and Chalke plays a new character named Andrea. The first episode begins with with Roseanne waking up Dan and saying, “I thought you were dead.” He then replies “Why does everybody always think I’m dead?” and a potential explanation for his assumed death is offered later in the episode.
Roseanne’s sister Jackie, daughter Darlene and son D.J. are back too and are still played by Laurie Metcalf, Sara Gilbert and Michael Fishman, respectively. New additions have come in the form of D.J.’s daughter Mary (Jayden Rey), Darlene’s daughter Harris (Emma Kenney), and Darlene’s son Mark (Ames McNamara).
Not only did “Roseanne” return with a long list of main characters, they also packed a wide variety of topics into their one hour premiere. The two main topics they covered were gender- fluidity and the 2016 presidential election, which is a bit dated at this point, but that was only the beginning.
They talked about surrogates, weapons in school, bullying, adults living with their parents and the classic “Roseanne” topic – a working class family struggling to make ends meet. Not to mention the fact that D.J. is now a military veteran who has a biracial daughter and a wife who is currently overseas fighting for her country. It was only mentioned once and then D.J. and his daughter disappeared from the episode.
“It’s about everything in our country. It’s about opioids and health care. How we deal with whole new issues that we didn’t even have before, like gender- fluid kids. How working class people — how and why they elected Trump,” Barr said in an interview with The New York Times’ Patrick Healy.
Roseanne is living in the same house with almost exactly the same decor. They have mostly the same cast playing mostly the same roles, with the exception of Chalke and the grandkids, but this time it just feels different.
“Well, I’m older, and I’ve been through menopause, so that was great,” Barr told Healy. “I’m a grandma now. I’m older and wiser. I appreciate things better, and appreciate having an opportunity at age 65 to come back and do what I love to do.”
The show always prided itself on covering the most controversial topics that other shows didn’t, but with all of the controversy in the world right now, they may have bitten off more than they can chew. Discussing so many topics didn’t give them enough time to really focus on the topics the way they used to and didn’t leave room for the amount of humor they used to have either.
When too many topics are discussed, it is almost like nothing is being discussed at all, which resulted in the premiere feeling like more of a tribute than a comeback. The 10th season of “Roseanne” is scheduled to end on May 15, which gives them a month and a half to change that.
If they continue to discuss a multitude of topics it will be hard for them to stick around, but if they revisit the topics they have already discussed, they might be able to turn it around. Focusing on one or two topics per episode will leave plenty of room for humor and allow them to dive deeper into the heart of the issues, which is what made the original “Roseanne” so successful.
The show airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.