The family sitcom formula can be as easy as a game of Mad Libs. You just plug in hot stand-up comic, a supporting actor given a chance to step up to a major role and a couple sassy kids. You swipe dusty scripts written for Father Knows Best and Make Room For Daddy. This has been done way too much over the decades. It would be so easy to assume that Roseanne falls into this Betty Crocker comedy recipe. But Roseanne Barr wasn’t ready to cook up the same show that’s been served dozens of times to audiences. She joked about her bad kitchen skills which turned out to be a positive for viewers.
Roseanne had become a stand up sensation when she became a fixture on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Her domestic goddess routines cracked up the audiences in the mid-’80s. So it didn’t take long for her to land a sitcom gig. She chose well by picking Casey-Werner productions who were riding high from The Cosby Show. In a sense Roseanne was the anti-Cosby even with her own collection of disturbing sweaters. Roseanne: The Complete Series shows that over the course of 9 seasons, this wasn’t a formulaic sitcom.
The first season introduces us to the Conner family. They are a lower middle-class family of five living in a small town in Illinois. Dan (Raising Arizona‘s John Goodman) is a construction worker. Roseanne (Roseanne Barr at this point) mixes running the house and working at a plastic factory. Her two daughters are the tomboyish Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and the blond Becky (Lecy Goranson & later Scrubs‘ Sarah Chalke). Their pesky son DJ (Michael Fishman) has a lot of people to annoy under the roof. There’s also her sister Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) that also works at the factory with her. Roseanne is not the close to the average TV mom. She’s rather scathing in her replies to her family, relatives and annoying guests. But she does have a touch of love for those close to her. The second season marks the arrival of Tom Arnold (True Lies). This is one of those moments when Roseanne’s real life leaked onto the show. She would eventually marry the comic for a few years. Since she had quit working at the plastics factory, this season had her go through a bunch of jobs.
The big addition to the series was the arrival of David Healy (The Big Bang Theory‘s Johnny Galecki). He’d become Darlene’s trouble love interest. At first it seems like he’s just going to be a guest character for a few episodes, but he sticks around to become a recurring character. Season six has the best episode of all with “A Stash from the Past.” Roseanne and Dan discover marijuana in the house. They try to act lofty as they investigate. But things go against their authority figure act when they discover how the pot got in the house. This was an angle never used on The Brady Bunch or The Cosby Show. Season Seven featured a visit from Traci Lords as Roseanne’s co-worker. There’s a lot of relationship issues including the threat of divorce. The show never quite played by the same rules as wholesome family entertainment. Roseanne was not going to be replaced by Sandy Duncan. This was her attitude on the screen which is what makes it as entertaining now as when it originally aired.
The final season has Roseanne take the show into a completely different direction. She wins the big lottery. Now she no longer has to worry about having enough cash to cover the bills. However she gets a whole lot of new worries. There are some viewers who want to forget this season and act like things wrapped up while they Conners were broke. But this would be wrong. This is the coda where Roseanne learns that having it all doesn’t mean you’re going to always like your life. She goes back and buys the plastics factory thus making the series go full circle. Roseanne: The Complete Series really does come to a certain feeling of completion.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are fine for a show that was finished on standard definition video. The audio is Dolby Digital Stereo. You might want to turn down the volume when Roseanne gets angry. The episodes are Closed Captioned.
Roseanne on Roseanne: A New Candid Interview (9:05) lets her explain how she kept the series from being normal. She also explains the part of the studio that killed laughter.
John Goodman Takes A Look Back (7:07) has a man who was certain the role was always his.
Wisdom of a Domestic Goddess (5:21) is her advise to the family.
Bloopers (11:01) has plenty of screwups, but oddly enough not all of them are Roseanne learning the ropes of being an actress. Goodman really cracks up.
Season One Highlights (6:24) has the best punchlines.
John Goodman: A Candid Interview (8:40) gives us more time with the man who will win this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar.
John Goodman Audition (1:15) has him at the table with Roseanne reading the script. She’s in awe of his performance.
DJ All Grown Up (9:04) lets us see an older Michael Fishman. Has he appeared on The Big Bang Theory? He wasn’t the DJ in the pilot.
Wacky Jackie (4:51) are highlights from the series featuring Laurie Metcalf.
Season Two Highlights (7:45) gives the rundown of the sophomore season.
Laurie Metcalf Interview: The Sister That Never Leaves (8:48) makes her admit she loved coming to the set.
Lecy Goranson Interview: I Was A Teenage Becky (7:39) lets her talk the full time. She isn’t replaced by another actress this time.
The Best of Season Three (7:04) are more highlights.
Life Imitating Art, Life Imitating Roseanne (5:32) gets Roseanne to declare that they hit their stride in season 4.
Interview with Lecy Goranson and Michael Fishman (9:48) lets the two speak more about their characters.
Video Commentary on “Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down,” “Thanksgiving 1991,” “The Fifties Show”, “Disney World War II” and “Springtime for David” lets Roseanne and Michael Fishman watch the show and chat about it on camera. They sit in the corner of the frame giving insight on the black and white episode that pays tribute to the original family sitcoms.
Roseanne: Working Class Actress (8:14) has her account how she wanted to make sure the character had real jobs and not goofy get rich quick schemes. Although on season nine, she wins the lottery.
Roseanne Answers The Fans’ Top 10 Questions (5:14) gets the corn jokes explained. She also explains the mystery of the chicken shirt.
Roseanne: A Legacy of Class (6:19) addresses how the last season was about class in America.
Season 9: Breaking the Sitcom Mold (6:24) let Roseanne why she made the family lottery winners in the final season. She won the lottery when her comedy made her rich. She wanted to address the depression of having it all.
Roseanne: The Complete Series brings together all 9 seasons at a reasonable price. Sure you can watch it on cable, but they channels will butcher or speed up the episodes. Roseanne deserves to be appreciated in its original form.
Mill Creek presents Roseanne: The Complete Series . Starring: Roseanne, John Goodman and Johnny Galecki. Boxset contents 222 episodes on 27 DVDs. Released: May 14, 2013. Available at Amazon.com.