The SmarK DVD Rant for Roseanne – Season Six

The Show

And now here’s where it wasn’t necessarily jump-the-shark time, but the motorcycle was certainly revving up. Two moments in particular during this season signaled the beginning of the end of Roseanne’s comedy dynasty, but we’ll cover those when we get to them. One of them is of course pretty obvious.

So season five ended up with Darlene running off to college without David, which you’d think she’d happy about because he’s an emo little putz.

Disc One

– “Two Down, One To Go.” As noted, Darlene is off to college, and Roseanne attempts to manipulate things before she goes, which turns into a big drama scene. Roseanne, of course, resists all attempts at independence on Darlene’s part (like putting socks in the BOTTOM drawer, perish the thought), but both of them have trouble saying goodbye. David, meanwhile, spazzes out and proposes, but then amends it by threatening to see other people. What a catch. Roseanne and Darlene make up over girl talk, and Roseanne’s baby fever kicks in AGAIN. I know it’s too late to bitch about it now, but no one bought a “real” family wanting yet another baby after already raising three of them on a limited income, and Roseanne’s continued insistence on working that storyline into the show really hurt.

– “The Mommy’s Curse” So we meet Jackie’s latest loser boyfriend, Fred, who turns out to be a decent guy for once. Bev is useless at the diner, so Roseanne confronts her and asks her to leave. This backfires in the worst way possible for Roseanne, but the best way possible for the viewer, when Bev sells her shares to Leon, thus improving the show about 200% immediately. Laurie Metcalf is obviously wearing huge baggy clothes to hide her pregnancy at this point, and they wrote it into the show to compensate. Roseanne v. Bev in a drama queen death match is the centerpiece here (“I never said we didn’t love your money!”)

– “Party Politics” DJ is acting weird(er) and the naturally paranoid Roseanne assumes he’s up to something. Jackie keeps trying to ditch Fred, who fits in place quite well with the rest of the neurotic weirdos that inhabit Lanford. Michael O’ Keefe is another guy who the networks keep sticking on big shows hoping that they can find a project for him, but he just never catches on. Darlene returns and schools DJ in the art of screwing with Roseanne, as the kids being all nice IS pretty creepy and suspicious. Roseanne v. Darlene in a battle of manipulative evil genius takes center stage here, but that’s hardly even a fair fight.

– “A Stash From The Past” Roseanne finds a stash of pot in David’s room, while Dan finds life in a supervising position to be more stressful than he can deal with. Roseanne’s lecture on the evils of drugs is undercut somewhat by Dan remembering that the stash was actually Roseanne’s, and suddenly it’s flower power for Roseanne & Dan all over again. The lengths they go to hide the pregnancy are pretty extreme, like having Jackie laying in a bathtub for her scenes. Jackie and our favorite couple stoned out of their mind is hilarious, however, and the lesson for you kids out there is that 20 year old pot is still pretty potent.

– “Be My Baby” Roseanne is still pushing for a baby much to Dan’s annoyance (“Maybe my sperm are waiting for your egg to shut up”), but her disappointment at failing to make one is compounded by Jackie revealing that her one night stand with Fred has yielded off-spring. Well, DUH. Sadly for Jackie, Roseanne ruins her chance at killing Bev with the news. And everyone else in town. Poor Fred is the only one not to know, kicking off a season-long thread about how Jackie treats him like dirt. Roseanne changes her mind about motherhood and decides just to meddle in Jackie’s pregnancy instead. For now.

– Halloween V. Two major storylines here see Darlene and David cheating on each other and Roseanne in desperate need to meddle, as well as Nancy being paranoid about Dan not liking her and Roseanne in desperate need to meddle. A double swerve with a robbery prank is a great moment, but the rest really shows how the quality was declining once she didn’t have the bratty kids to play off of anymore.

Disc Two

– “Homeward Bound” David is getting even more mopey and emo about Darlene, so Roseanne tries mentoring him. DJ learns about having special time…alone…in the bathroom, which makes him weirder and everyone else uncomfortable. David and Darlene’s relationship falls apart the dinner table because, apparently, David is a dead-end slacker. You don’t say? Dan’s conversation with DJ about how it’s OK to masturbate, but NEVER OK to talk about it, is the height of discomfort. That’s really when the show was at its funniest — throwing out some left-field conversation that you’d never think would happen on network TV and then milking the uncomfortable silences. David tells Roseanne that he’s moving back to Michigan to be with his abusive mother, but it’s actually to be with his abusive girlfriend instead.

– “Guilt By Imagination” Dan meets up with Phyllis, the woman who he had an affair with 25 years ago, triggering a fight in an earlier episode. And it’s the old tangled web deal as Jackie and Dan try to cover it up, and Dan comes off looking like a big jerk by having sex with Roseanne after lunch with Phyllis. Roseanne leaves and it’s a pretty morose episode, kind of a theme for the season.

– “Homecoming” OK, here’s the first (and most obvious) shark-jumping moment this season, as Mark and Becky return from exile, and Becky is now played by Sarah Chalke in a totally different manner than Lecy Goranson did. For starters, she actually looks like a grownup instead of an eternal 14-year old. And although she wasn’t rocking the hotness like she does on Scrubs now, she still played Becky as more of a typical blonde who a self-centered ass like Mark would actually go after, rather than the dork that Lecy made her. I actually like Sarah’s interpretation better, but my problem is that it became a totally new character in her hands and really took the viewer out of the show. The plot here centers on Dan’s 25-year-old football team reunion, while Becky needs marital advice from Roseanne. Sadly, Mark doesn’t actually do anything bad, so Roseanne’s got nothing to work with. And so, Mark and Becky join the cast and move in to replace David and Darlene.

– “Thanksgiving 93” It’s yet another giant family gathering, minus David and Darlene, as Becky tries to do all the cooking and Nana Mary plays senile to mess with Bev. Bev tries reverse psychology on Jackie to put her with Fred, which give us some primo method acting from the hysteric Bev. This leads to the revelation that Roseanne was conceived out of wedlock. Dan and Mark finally come to blows, and that proves to be the trigger needed for them to bond, and also the trigger for Mark to be completely neutered by the writers compared to the bad boy he started out as. All that was missing was Leon. Great stuff.

– “The Driver’s Seat” More brilliance from Leon, as he manipulates Nancy & Jackie into giving him more power at the diner without telling Roseanne. Thus, the war is on, with Roseanne and Leon fighting over control of Jackie and Nancy. Apparently breaking them is the hard part, but anyone can ride them. Meanwhile, DJ steals the car for a joyride, triggering kind of a shocking beating from Roseanne. Yes, it’s more psychotherapy for real-life Roseanne through her character. Joy. And so the hilarity with the diner swings 180 degrees the other way. The two plots meet as Dan confronts Leon, who offers to buy them out in between cowering. Have I mentioned how awesome Martin Mull was on this show? Roseanne’s apology to DJ might as well have come with “For Your Consideration” subtitles and been shipping directly to the Emmy people. However, all is forgiven in the post-credits tag, as they do a “Cops” parody that rules all.

– “White Trash Christmas” The neighborhood association nicely asks the Conners to tone down the tacky Xmas crap, so of course you know what this means. Meanwhile, Bev drags DJ to Chicago to visit Darlene, which reveals David’s presence there and gives DJ some blackmail material. Roseanne tries to give Becky money for college, but it gets funneled into Mark’s education instead, which Dan thinks is a pretty good idea. This triggers another war, leading Becky to take a job at a restaurant enough like Hooters not to matter.

Disc Three

“Suck Up Or Shut Up” Leon’s new business plan is networking. So Roseanne joins a snobby women’s group to hopefully make contacts for the diner. Mark, meanwhile, drops out of school already and lies about it, which has Roseanne training Becky in the ways of controlling her man. Besides the obvious way. The bizarre highlight here proves to be DJ’s psychotic friend Elijah, who is disconnected from reality and constantly sings to himself. Then denies it. This one continues the flip-flopping of Mark’s character, as sometimes he’s a great mechanic and sometimes he’s a moron. And when his conditioning fails, he leaves Becky.

– “Busted” Dan tries to get Mark to come back, but the glory of bachelor living nearly sucks him in, too. Myself and everyone else who has ever transitioned from the kind of apartment in this episode to married life can sympathize with this one. Growing up truly does mean going from quadrophonic sound to a clock radio. With two alarms. Mark’s badass cool from early seasons has now swung over to depressing self-loathing, and I don’t know it’s entirely inconsistent writing – probably – or just learning more about the character beyond his outer facade – less likely but possible. He mends fences with Roseanne, but his idiot roommate reveals that David is shacking up with Darlene, and off they go to Chicago. So with Mark and David back again, the family is mostly complete, thanks to Roseanne.

– “David v. Goliath” Roseanne has poor David under her thumb thanks to his indiscretions, which brings her to new depths of evil. Almost as evil as DJ, who attempts to further hone his blackmailing skills on David. Meanwhile, Jackie keeps pushing Fred away as that subplot drags on, and then inherits David after David discovers the subterfuge and kicks him out. Roseanne’s monumental guilt trip leads Dan to hire Mark for the garage instead of bringing David back, leaving the odd couple stuck together for the moment.

– “Everyone Comes To Jackie’s” Darlene returns home for her share of the fallout from the David thing, which includes an alphabetical list of punishments from Roseanne, but an odd amount of forgiveness from Dan. Which lasts about 15 seconds, at which point Dan catches David and Darlene making out in the basement. Uh oh. The web of lies comes crashing down on Roseanne, and Angry Dan is truly scary thing again. However, since the women are in control of all the relationships on this show, Dan realizes how wrong and very male he is and takes David back.

– “Don’t Make Room For Daddy” So an offhand remark from Dan to Fred turns into drama, as Fred takes his “advice” and sues Jackie for custody of the unborn baby. Roseanne protests that she’s “way more powerful than any law” and yet still can’t swing him. So it turns into a gender war in the Conner household (with David falling squarely on the female side, of course) and thus everyone gets to be miserable. Including Jackie, who hates men, but finally comes around and lets Fred have at her again.

– “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Famous one here, although not for particularly good reasons. Nancy invites Roseanne and Jackie to a gay bar with new girlfriend Marial Hemingway. Speaking of gay, Mark’s browbeating of David continues, and gets worse when Darlene starts dating one of Becky’s former boyfriends. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s the same guy who was “killed off” in a throwaway gag in Season 4. Roseanne of course fits right in at the bar, while Jackie fends off rampaging lesbians. However, Rosie fits in so well that Nancy’s woman makes a move on her, and we get the first lesbian kiss on network TV. This has Roseanne freaked out a bit (“like, 3 or 4 percent. Maybe less”) but it’s OK to be gay. Although she’s not. Kind of funny, but this felt more like an event episode than one written to be funny.

Disc Four

– “Labor Day” Jackie is concerned that she’ll never get that demon spawn out of her, and Roseanne is concerned that Jackie wants Fred in the delivery room instead of her. Jackie’s water breaks and in typical Roseanne fashion, she delays her at the house and manipulates her into leaving Fred out. Jackie on painkillers has a great scene with Bev where we learn that “Jackie” is actually Marjorie, but young Roseanne wasn’t able to pronounce that and just called her “My Jackie” instead until she just became Jackie. The POV shot of the baby being born is something most shows don’t do, for good reason.

– “Past Imperfect” More cracks in the Conner family, as Ed is missing alimony payments to Dan’s mom, thus pissing Dan off. Fred wants to get serious with Jackie, but he’s worried that Jackie doesn’t have a lot of experience with men. That one writes itself. Thus begins the B-story, as Fred asks the inevitable question while investigating Jackie’s sex life (“Since you were 18?” “Uh, yeah, we’ll go with that.”) Great stuff with Roseanne and Jackie discussing when to lie to men, and using David as a guinea pig. It’s little moments like that one which made the show so real and funny, not lesbian kisses or lottery winnings. Luckily Roseanne skillfully uses lies instead of truth to save Jackie and Fred’s relationship, but it’s another downer ending as Dan is forced to commit his mother.

– “Lies My Father Told Me” Oh God, the chicken shirt is back. Roseanne is faced with the task of explaining why Dan’s mother is in the crazy house (a place not unlike the Conner household), but Dan is in some serious denial. Jackie is just shocked that Dan’s mom beat Bev there. David and Darlene trying to drive DJ crazy with an “early warning test” is hilariously mean. On the other side of the emotional spectrum, Dan gets drunk and smashes up Ed’s house, showing how scary he can be again. Why didn’t John Goodman ever get the Emmy? Things get heavier when we learn that Mom was going from mental hospital to mental hospital and he’s just repressing it all, helped along by his dad taking the emotional bullet for him all those years. Fantastic Goodman episode.

– “I Pray The Lord My Stove To Keep” DJ’s weirdness crosses another line, and he starts going to church. The family is ill-prepared for this kind of thing (being that relatives once sent them a Bible with EVERY passage highlighted) but they try to be supportive for once. Except for Darlene. However, DJ’s new ethical values back Roseanne into a corner when she’s given multiple stoves as a result of shipping errors. Pretty heavy questions posed here, actually.

– “Body By Jake” Back to the lighter fare again, as Bev has fallen and can’t get up, but still manages to fire guilt bullets at Dan from her back, and thus she’s living at Chez Conner. Meanwhile, Fred wants to propose to Jackie. Well, geez, about time. Dan again steals things with his answer to how he proposed to Roseanne: He said “yes”. Speaking of love being in the air, we learn that Bev’s hip injury came about due to a disturbing sex accident with Jake, rather than in the shower as previously reported. Fred confiding one thing to Dan of course turns into a cascade of secrets being shared, because Dan is incapable of hiding the smallest thing from Roseanne. However, the trump card of the episode is Roseanne having the most uncomfortable and disturbing talk with her mother ever (the look on her face when naive and sheltered Bev asks her if she enjoys sex and Roseanne is forced to tell her mother that yes, indeed she does, is awesome). Perhaps Bev’s dislike of sex here foreshadows her character change in later seasons, or perhaps the writers were lazy and god-awful by the time 80% of the people on the show ended up being gay. Your call.

– “Isn’t It Romantic” After screwing up his marriage proposal, Fred finally shaves his beard off as a romantic gesture to Jackie (well, mainly to Roseanne) and makes such a huge further gesture that Dan ends up in the doghouse by comparison to it. Then things get silly and anti-male, foreshadowing the downfall of the series as a whole, with both of the hallmarks of the later seasons: Roseanne fantasizing in fourth-wall breaking situations, and men being portrayed as idiot buffoons who need to be saved by the women. Moving along.

– “Altar Egos” So the Jackie-Fred marriage is finally a go, but Fred thinks his manly needs aren’t being met, what with Dan constantly lecturing everyone that you should keep your garage heated, trying to fix his water heater and all. The secret that everyone knows is finally revealed, as Jackie’s obvious long-term crush on Dan comes out and puts the wedding in jeopardy. Roseanne immediately shoots the whole thing down because men are idiots and women know everything and it’s inconceivable that Jackie might just have been burying those feelings all along or anything. Dan spins it back at her by pointing out that Roseanne just wants Jackie to herself. Great guy moment with Dan and Fred as drunken punches are laughed off at the bar because of impending marriage. And Jackie marries Fred to finish up the season.

In all honestly, this is where the show should have packed it in. Ratings had leveled off by this point and the writing was on the wall, but sadly they kept it going for another three seasons, which get progressively worse from here on in. Consider yourself warned.

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

Extras? What extras? Despite the fourth disc being labeled as “Episodes 19-25 and Extras,” there is nothing to be found in the way of bonus materials in this season. No interviews, no commentary, nothing. Hopefully the long gap between this and season 7 in April will mean more bonus material, but I get the feeling that the well is already dried up.

The Ratings

The Show: ****
The Video: **1/2
The Audio: **
The Extras: DUD

The Inside Pulse

The show took a big dip in quality, as it still had hilarious moments but kind of staggered from one episode to another – instead of flowing like the earlier seasons did. The Becky transition was pretty jarring, however, and pretty much signaled the early death knells of the show, with Roseanne’s total creative takeover hurrying up the demise.