The SmarK DVD Rant for Roseanne – The Complete Second Season

The SmarK DVD Rant for Roseanne: The Complete Second Season

– Well, apparently Anchor Bay and Carsey-Werner distribution have listened to the torrent of complaints about the hacked-up season 1 DVDs, because they trumpet right on the front of the box that this set is complete and uncut, just like they were shown on network TV. George Clooney and most of the Wellman crew were cut from the show following Roseanne’s departure from that job, leaving Crystal as the only returning regular guest. And the result was a MUCH more interesting cast of characters, free to explore their own stuff instead of having stale jokes at the dull factory job. Also, Joss Whedon (of future Buffy fame) and Penelope Spheeris (of future Wayne’s World fame) joined the show as writers, notably punching things up as a result.

Disc One

– “Inherit the Wind” After losing her job at the Wellman plastics plant at the end of the first season, Roseanne’s first crack at employment is selling magazines over the phone. Becky has an important date with a football hero (future hunk Stephen Dorff), so it’s EXTRA Kleenex in her bra as a result. Sadly, the moment is ruined when Becky gives a speech in front of the whole school…and farts. It was still the 80s, so the joke is related in second-hand form via Darlene instead of happening on-screen like it would on Family Guy. The contrast between Becky’s horrified reaction and Dan’s laughing was a good moment. This requires some deft mothering by Roseanne, although new boyfriend Jimmy seals the deal.

– “The Little Sister” Jackie’s employment search brings her to the police academy, which has Roseanne disapproving. Darlene catches Becky reading one of Dan’s porno magazines and ends up labeled as a snitch, so we get the first look at Jackie’s apartment as the spurned sisters bond. Jackie, however, is drunk off her ass, which leads to a nice moment between the older sisters later (“People who can’t handle conflict run right for the alcohol.” “Well, have another shot of pancake, Roseanne.”) and then a surprisingly vicious (but hilarious) fight between them, offset by Dan doing commentary.

– “Guilt By Disassociation” First episode written by later show-killer Tom Arnold. Roseanne is freaking out before a job interview, and the “Do I look good?” conversation with Dan is very true-to-life. Roseanne gets hired for a secretarial job and makes the mistake of telling everyone right away, and then learns that computer skills are needed. And thus her surprise party takes on a more depressing tone than intended. The Tangerine 3000 Computer System must have been some state of the art stuff in 1989.

– “Somebody Stole My Gal” Dan brings Roseanne to the job site to help organize the paperwork, and ends up hiring her to work there. Motherly wisdom from Roseanne: “What’d I tell you about eating cookies before dinner?” “Use a plate?” “Right.” Roseanne’s new boss stops by for dinner, which has Jackie getting all dressed up, and it immediately turns into a tearful therapy session for him. The family mock him, but Bert is so overcome with emotion that he buys the family a new fridge, and tries to buy his way into their lives. Hey, I’m not proud, I’d have taken the fridge.

– “House of Grown-Ups” The Connors get a VCR, which was still pretty exciting back in 1989. Hey, they can watch Lethal Weapon 2! Becky takes Darlene to a co-ed party, giving us an echo of a previous Roseanne-Jackie scene in “The Little Sister”. Both episodes were written by future cult hero Joss Whedon, which is probably why this season produced such good stuff. Jackie goes off to the academy, leaving Roseanne feeling lonely. Becky gets into a makeout session at the party, which leads to a funny discussion of the mechanics of kissing between the younger sisters. It also leads to a Mandingo reference, something you don’t get in many sitcoms. Do people still get Mandingo references today?

– “Five Of A Kind” It’s poker night for Dan, which introduces us to Tom Arnold, playing Arnie Thomas. How droll. And sporting quite the mullet, he is. However, he impulsively kisses Roseanne and dotes on her, which has Rosie feeling weirded out. No wonder, it’s Tom Arnold. This puts her in a rare defensive position, acting all freaked out and uncomfortable while discussing it with Jackie. Not much to the story, although the macho men gossiping at the poker table after complaining about the women is pretty funny.

– “BOO!” The first official Halloween episode sees Dan and Roseanne tormenting the kids with scary stories, and of course it turns into a competition between them to see who can do the worst. Scariest of all, Becky is being a whiny teenaged bitch. Luckily she recovers and plays along, as the house gets decorated in over-the-top fashion. Roseanne wins the battle, but to reveal any more would be spoiling the fun. Awesomely funny stuff, and the beginning of a grand tradition for this show.

Disc Two

– “Sweet Dreams” Roseanne is having a rough week and she wants the bathroom, but real life keeps intruding, so she dreams of a utopian bathroom instead. The result is my least favorite episode of the season, with the whole thing being a long and silly dream sequence that sees her killing off her family and then standing trial for it, ending with a “showstopping” musical number. Next.

– “We Gather Together” Back onto solid ground again here, as it’s the Thanksgiving episode and Roseanne’s parents have everyone on edge before they even arrive. She’s in full dictator mode, while Dan practices tackling on the couch. Roseanne books a motel for her parents (without telling them, of course), and we meet Dan’s mother for the first time. She brings a date, and thus makes things awkward with Dan’s dad Ed, who in turn makes it even more awkward by putting the moves on Crystal. Roseanne’s dictatorship gets usurped by her mother in hilarious fashion (“Are you basting every 30 minutes?”) while Roseanne gets off some great non sequiturs (“What kind of name is Meltreeger? Is he Episcopalian?”) Family chaos always carries the show to greatness.

– “Brain-Dead Poet’s Society” Darlene has to write a poem for school, so Roseanne digs up her poetry from high school, again showing her dormant artistic side. Darlene writing a poem about her happy place isn’t a good match, of course. “I want to graduate high school so I can get a job and get out of this hellhole town!” “But if you COULD be expressive, what would you say?” I’m with Darlene, poetry sucks. However, irony strikes when she writes a poem so good that she wins an award, but she doesn’t want to show up to read it for everyone. The obvious payoff is her stealing it from Roseanne’s book, but they go the total opposite direction and have it be a totally original and quite touching poem about alienation, hinting at her future darker direction.

– “Lobocop” Roseanne is stressed about working two jobs, which results in problems with Dan and the rest of her neglected family. Especially Dan, who apparently needs more affection than he lets on. Funny moment in the bar as Officer Jackie walks in during a barfight and ignores it, showing her dedication to the job. Even worse for Jackie, she gets caught in the middle of Roseanne and Dan’s sex problems, and has to have a VERY awkward talk with Dan. But luckily Dan knows just how to make Roseanne feel loved again, because he’s that kind of guy.

– “No Talking” Becky in fine snotty form and annoying Roseanne and Dan, much to the delight of Darlene. Becky’s extreme solution is to stop talking to them (well, Roseanne), so Roseanne retaliates by taking the bedroom door off the hinges. She also gets a shot at reading Becky’s secret diary, but that would make her TOO much like her mom, so she tries reasoning with Becky instead. And we don’t actually find out what was bugging Becky in the first place, although the epilogue seems to indicate that it wasn’t really anything.

– “Chicken Hearts” The gags about Roseanne’s 17-year old boss are finally paid off, as we meet him, and course he’s a self-important dork. He reminds me of a guy named Gabriel who I used to work with, in fact. Jackie & Crystal suggest sucking up to manipulate him later, so Roseanne brings him home for dinner and gets Dan to help him fix his car for shop class. First in-canon mention that DJ stands for “David Jacob” in this one, if you care. Awesome stuff from Dan as Brian the Giant Maggot misinterprets Dan’s anger and insists that he’s never hit on Roseanne, which prompts a hilariously bewildered “Uh, good, good” from Dan. However, after buttering the kid up, he fires Roseanne anyway, which is a twist that’s very much in-character for this show.

– “One for the Road” More freaking out from Becky, as Roseanne and Dan go out for dinner and she gets drunk with a friend off the NASTIEST highball I’ve ever seen. Someone at least teach her to mix drinks, man. Roseanne of course handles the hangover with her usual decency, but loses trust in her daughter.

Disc Three

– “An Officer and a Gentleman” Roseanne has a family emergency, leaving Jackie to play interim Mommy for the army of brats. Dan is just impressed that the house is clean and he has dinner on the table. We get some rare Jackie-Dan niceness, as she gets more domestic to the shock of everyone. This gives us more interesting Dan character development, as we learn that Dan and Jackie were almost an item in high school before Jackie introduced him to her sister. And Roseanne cuts her hair short, a really bad idea that she kept up for a couple of seasons. Not funny so much, but nice.

– “Born to be Wild” Wacky biker Ziggy comes back to the Connors’ lives for the first time in the show, played by Jay Sanders. Ironically, anti-establishment Ziggy went on to play a succession of cops and FBI agents in other roles. Anyway, he’s a little intense and in love with his Harley, which leads us to meet Dan’s former motorcycle for the first time, as it’s in need of some repairs, to say the least. The boat appears to have disappeared into the void of the garage by this point. Ziggy thinks that his friends are all lifeless and square, prompting Roseanne to pine for Dan’s chopper glory days again. That chopper is of course a metaphor for lost youth, and Dan and Ziggy get down to the manly task of rebuilding it. Much faster than the boat, thankfully. Jay Sanders steals this one and the result is one of the best of the season.

– “Hair” More job-related angst for Roseanne, as now she’s reduced to working in a beauty salon as a shampoo girl. A very young, pre-stardom Melora Walters is one of the hairdressers. Roseanne is more depressed when she discovers that she’s good at this job, and moreso when Mrs. Wellman, her former boss, is one of the regular clients. More of an introduction to the new regulars than anything hilarious.

– “I’m Hungry” The subject of Dan and Roseanne’s expanding waistlines comes up, as it’s the first of many diet attempts. Roseanne’s decidedly non-Hollywood love of food is something rarely seen on TV before then, or after. In a radical move, they decide to try EXERCISE. Jackie offers her theory on why she’s thin and Roseanne isn’t: Roseanne eats a lot. That’s deep. A detoxing Rosie and crazed, motivational Dan is a great combination.

– “All Of Me” Jackie has a new dream boyfriend, but of course Roseanne is looking for the cloud inside the silver lining. Dan’s restored bike replaces the boat as garage prop of choice here. Roseanne’s criticisms of Jackie’s perfect man, Gary, turn into another blowout between them, which in turn transfers to Jackie’s relationship. As if she wasn’t messed up enough as it is, the last thing she needed was Roseanne’s “help”. Jackie was pretty clearly in the right here, although Roseanne accuses her of going over the edge and losing herself in Gary. This was one of the few episodes to be deliberately not funny at all.

– “To Tell the Truth” Roseanne and Jackie are estranged, so Rosie looks for companionship elsewhere. Dan, meanwhile, tries to reconcile the sisters, but fails miserably until Gary bails him out by proposing to Jackie. Jackie starts freaking out about him possibly finding out her millions of annoying habits, and yet he still loves her. Amazing. Roseanne gets the best line here with “I wore white” and the corresponding blank stares from her family. In the end, Jackie and Gary decide to postpone the wedding for a while, and I don’t think we ever heard from Gary again after the beginning of season 3, in fact. This one added up to a whole lot of nothing.

– “Fender Bender” Mrs. Wellman rear-ends Roseanne outside of the salon, leaving her stranded in bed with a neck brace. Jackie offers her advice to the kids on driving: “We cops have a saying: You never pull a dead man out of a seat belt.” Darlene: “What, do you just leave him there?” Roseanne’s pain and suffering has Dan seeing dollar signs, courtesy of guest lawyer Stephen Root, who insists that although they have a good case, he’s much too incompetent to actually argue their case himself. Luckily, Mrs. Wellman doesn’t know that, and buys them off to avoid going to court.

Disc Four

– “April Fool’s Day” It’s tax time, and Dan’s head is ready to blow. I’m glad Canadian tax is at least a little easier to figure out — you just dump the contents of your wallet into an envelope, along with a limb you’re not using, address it to the government, and hope for a refund. So Roseanne gives the kids a lesson in economics while Jackie puts the fear of god into Dan by suggesting that they might get AUDITED. This kicks off a hilariously weird running joke with Dan & Roseanne getting followed around by an evil musical cue. A trip to the helpful and friendly tax office gives Roseanne no end of targets for her bile, although her rant against Washington feels a bit ham-fisted. John Goodman, as himself, then steals the episode by sucking up to the government during the credits. Tons of funny stuff here.

– “Fathers and Daughters” Roseanne thinks that Dan isn’t paying enough attention to Becky, and when he reaches out to her, she’s immediately suspicious, triggering a fight. So the parents decide to switch kids for the night, allowing Dan the fun of shopping with a teenager and Roseanne the fun of watching basketball with Darlene. We discover that Becky’s previously unexplained crappy mood was probably Jimmy dumping her. Dan’s irritation with shopping is very true stuff, and dig those 80s clothes displays! I especially love the day-glo purple shirt and suspenders.

– “Happy Birthday” Roseanne wishes for more time to write as her birthday wish, but be careful what you wish for and stuff. Real life keeps intervening, so Dan rebuilds the basement into an office for her. And of course, given the perfect circumstances for writing, she gets writer’s block and cleans up the basement instead. Jackie and Roseanne have a strangely hilarious conversation about writing (“Gone With the Wind was a BOOK?”) but luckily DJ restores her self-confidence as season 2 draws to a close. Sadly, they never really followed up on that plotline.

Overall, a much stronger season than the first one, although with the greater concentration on character development and more dramatic stories, there’s actually less laughs over the course of the season. Still, the heyday of the show begins here, plus it’s UNCUT this time, so have no fears about picking this one up. Highly recommended.

The Video

Pretty much standard TV fare, as it doesn’t look like Anchor Bay made any great effort in remastering this for DVD. Colors are pretty washed out and there’s lots of obvious noise issues with the transfer. Given the age of the show it’s tough to expect much more, but I’ve definitely seen better.

The Audio

Just plain old stereo, although it’s rarely actually used. Dialogue is clear, however, so it serves the purpose needed.

The Extras

Everything is on the fourth disc again, and it’s a pretty decent selection of stuff again.

– John Goodman: A Candid Interview. Pretty self-explanatory, runs 8:00

– DJ: All Grown Up. An interview with an older Michael Fishman (he’s got KIDS?), who really hasn’t done much since the show. Runs 9:00

– Best of Season 2: 8 minutes of highlights.

– Wacky Jackie: 5 minutes of Jackie highlights, as you’d expect.

– Roseanne Reunited. A 2:00 featurette about the season 1 release party. Lecy Goranson still looks the same as she did when she was 14.

– John Goodman’s Audition Tape. From December 87, runs about a minute.

– And of course, a whole lotta ads for other DVDs.

The Ratings:

The Film: ****1/2
The Video: **1/2
The Audio: **
The Extras: **1/2