Like most of the people in my Twitter timeline, I watched the premiere of the Roseanne reboot last night. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect, but I still have fond memories of the show from back in the day. (To be honest, the last couple of seasons dove a bit far into high strangeness for my tastes, but it was almost always enjoyable just the same.) It didn’t take long after the opening scene for me to settle in with the Connor family as if they’d never really left. (You can read a recap of it at Fox News which contains a lot of spoilers. I’ll try to minimize them here in case you haven’t watched it yet, but some will be unavoidable. You’ve been warned.)
Despite enjoying seeing the old gang back together and laughing at some of the inside jokes, I felt a bit of unease during the first of the two episodes. They were obviously setting up the audience for a lot of political and social commentary by rebuilding the now aging Connor family with elements sure to trigger everyone across the ideological spectrum. Darlene’s family, having returned to the nest after she lost her job, is single parent and includes a son who is somewhere on the “gender spectrum.” (He insists he’s a boy, but simply prefers to dress in girls’ clothes, setting up the obvious conflicts to come at school.) DJ’s family is multi-racial. As for the straight-up politics, Roseanne is an unapologetic Trump voter while her sister Jackie (who has been “dead to her” since the 2016 election) was a Hillary supporter who wound up voting for a third party candidate.
The list goes on, but it almost felt as if they were hitting us with a sledgehammer when a few taps on the solider would have sufficed. Still, they managed to quickly establish all of those storylines and more, bringing the viewers up to date as to what’s been going on in Connor World. And yet there was something else putting me off. I finally figured out what it was by the middle of the second episode. It was the live audience. It’s been so long since I’ve watched a sitcom which included either a canned laugh-track or an audience laughing in the background that it was kind of distracting. Back in the 80s nearly all my favorites used that format, such as Cheers and Seinfeld, but since then most television studios have moved away from it. But by the end of the second episode, it had already faded into the background and ceased bothering me.
Perhaps one of the weirdest plot twists to wrap my head around was the situation with their daughter Becky. One of the running, inside jokes about the original series was how the original actress playing Becky (Alicia Goranson) simply disappeared one day and was replaced by Sarah Chalke without anyone seeming to say a word about it. Goranson is back playing Becky this time, but Chalke also returns as a woman who wants her to be a surrogate mother for their family. The inside jokes when they first meet were hilarious, but seeing the two of them together was just… odd.
Overall, even with some uneven moments and the overload of social and political vehicles being set up, it was funny and entertaining. I found myself laughing out loud more than once and it brought a smile to my face. So if you haven’t caught it yet and are on the fence, I’d suggest giving it a try. If you liked Roseanne back in the early years you just might like it now that the story has moved on by a generation.
The original article was edited to indicate that it’s DJ’s family which is multi-racial and not Darlene’s.