The SmarK DVD Rant for Roseanne – The Complete Ninth Season

Available at Amazon.com

And so, the end. Sadly (or not, depending on whether you have to review them, I guess) the people who handle Starz releases didn’t send me a review copy of the eighth season and I’m sure as heck not buying it to review, so we’re skipping from the seventh to the ninth one to finally put this beast out of its misery. Not that I didn’t love Roseanne through the previous years, but this was really a show where you could see the potential in the first season, then watch the glory years from seasons 2-5, then watch the show slowly slip away from the original point through 6 and 7 as Roseanne gained more and more power, and finally fall apart completely in the last two seasons. Really, they could have gone out on top at the end of season 7, but they pushed for one more season, and then Roseanne wanted one last season when it was obvious to everyone else that the horse was dead long ago. The eighth season concluded with Dan suffering a heart attack, and then growing apart from Roseanne because of his refusal to take better care of himself.

Disc One

– “Call Waiting” The theme song now has lyrics provided by John Popper, and he also handles all the transition music as well, although Blue Traveller’s one hit kind of died out shortly after the show did. Coincidence? So Rosie and Dan are estranged and as usual Roseanne finds solace in TV, beginning the general weirdness that would define this crappy, crappy season with a fantasy about being “That Girl” and “I Dream of Jeannie”. Man, Marlo Thomas was a FINE looking lady in her day. Funny bit here with David trying to empathize with Dan (“You’ve been married for eight days.” “Yeah, but to DARLENE.”), but the episode is pretty melancholy stuff, ending with the reunion of the happy couple. But then the whole dynamic of the show changes during the end credits, as a throwaway joke about a lottery ticket is paid off with the Conners suddenly winning $108 million. This should have been the end of the show.

– “Millions from Heaven” The Conner celebration is exactly the kind of over the top moment that you’d expect. That being said, the essential dynamic of the show is shot with that moment, because now the conflict that had driven the show for 8 years — the family struggling to make ends meet — was gone and they were no longer common folk who the viewer could relate to. And much like many stories from the final season, there’s no actual story to this episode, as it’s just the family collecting their money and having a party to celebrate.

– “What a Day For a Daydream” The theme here is the family dealing with their newfound fame, a common theme in the last season. So we get more fantasy sequences, with the happy couple on Jerry Springer in a bit that wasn’t funny to begin with and drags on far past the point where it needs to go. And a dream with Roseanne and Jackie posing for Playboy is even less funny, as the show drops all pretense of being about anything but Roseanne’s selfish wish fulfillment. Seriously, not one single laugh to be had here.

– “Honor Thy Mother” Roseanne and Jackie research spa getaways, while Dan has a spiritual crisis. DJ now occupies the girls’ old room, as they manage to recycle every last bit of that set. Dan mopes around all episode and then leaves the show to go help his mother in California (shooting The Big Lebowski, I believe). And somewhere in Europe, a prince loves Jackie.

– “Someday My Prince Will Come” The casting that HAD to happen finally does, as Jim Varney joins the cast of Roseanne, playing totally against type as Prince Carlos of Moldavia. And wants to whisk Jackie away to New York to squire her about town. Boy, there’s a wacky situation that we can all relate to. So everyone flies to New York and none of it is funny in the least. The real Roseanne would have had some ironic twist to the situation, not a sappy love story. These early season 9 episodes are totally a case of too much, too soon with the money and culture shock stuff.

– “Pampered to a Pulp” Roseanne & Jackie finally check into that spa, and discover that being pampered is a lot of hard work. Roseanne spoofing an experience that no one but the rich or celebrities endure just shows how completely out of touch the show was getting already. The best part is clearly Past Life Regression Therapy, featuring two of the Zappa kids demonstrating proper breathing techniques while everyone tries hard not to lose it. But before that can get funny, it turns into yet another stupid fantasy sequence, this time with Roseanne as Xena.

– “Satan, Darling” We’re back in New York and the girls mingle with high society at a charity ball. This gives us all kinds of crazy sitcom cameos, but none crazier than Patsy & Edina from Absolutely Fabulous playing in character. This of course is a huge wink to Roseanne’s plan to launch her own version of that show, starring herself, which never happened. Thankfully, if nothing else, it’s actually FUNNY when Jennifer Saunders is on screen, because she’s a genius. Roseanne’s rant about Kathie Lee Gifford brings the house down, too. But then they totally lose the point of the episode as it turns into ANOTHER fantasy sequence, with Darlene giving birth to the devil’s baby. What the hell?

Disc Two

– “Hoi Polloi Meets Hoity Toity” Ugh, the embarrassment continues as the Conners meet the rich Wentworth family, and of course they’re all rich snobs who are your stereotypical inbred old money. Thankfully no dream sequences here, but we’ll leave it at that.

– “Roseambo” And for those who were wondering, this would be the universally accepted bottoming-out point for the show, a show so unredeemable and awful to watch that it actually made me question why I ever watched the show in the first place. The women travel by train to Washington D.C., but it’s overcome by TERRORISTS. But no worries, because Roseanne is able to kill them all with a variety of techniques ranging from tampons in the eye to killer hot rollers. This show was so unwatchable that I’m shocked they didn’t cancel the season right then, and the laugh track in particular had to be canned. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that this show was not only the worst episode of Roseanne by a mile, INCLUDING clip shows, but one of the worst episodes of any major sitcom ever produced. Thankfully it got somewhat better after this, but really ANYTHING would be better after this atrocity.

– “Home Is Where the Afghan Is” Finally back to the house after traveling the world in unfunny manner. The place is now of course totally renovated and upgraded in Extreme Makeover: White Trash Edition manner. So it’s Thanksgiving at the Conner house, and this time it’s catered, something that Roseanne has trouble dealing with. Finally some conflict this season, as Bev goes on a homophobic rant against new adoptive parents Leon & Scott (“Drink up, Bev, you’ve got a long drive home.”) and the Prince gets all liquored up and turns into Ernest. Bev’s seeming homophobia turns into the next big plot twist of the season, as she suddenly comes out of the closet in a development that makes ZERO sense. Par for the course this season.

– “Mothers And Other Strangers.” Roseanne is anxious about Dan’s return from California, while Bev and the swishy twins, now BFFs, visit Nana Mary for a heart-to-heart talk. Mary & Bev are both good in short doses, but there’s just WAY too much of Bev in particular this year. Total filler episode with nothing really happening, although DJ’s indignant reaction to the poker hands in David’s repainted version of the Dogs Playing Poker scene is a highlight.

– “Home For the Holidays” Dan finally returns, and he’s upset about all the changes in the house. But at least things are funny and light-hearted while he’s around again, showing how much the show misses him when he’s gone and Roseanne has no one to match against. DJ wanting realism in the Santa cookies and Dan explaining how men deal with instructions make for a fun Christmas, and Dan gets to finally burn the mortgage as a gift from Roseanne. But then it’s another nonsense plot twist to end things, as Dan is apparently cheating on the sly.

– “Say It Ain’t So” Jackie confronts Dan as we go back down the dark path again, albeit with some great acting from Laurie & John. The theme of children becoming their parents also repeats as Dan turns further into Ed. Jackie gets her own bad news as Prince Carlo marries another woman off-screen to write him out of the show. Everyone is all angry and awkward and as usual for this season there’s no resolution forthcoming.

Disc Three

– “Hit The Road, Jack” The Conner marriage is seemingly done, again, and Roseanne finds comfort in fast food, as she always does. DJ’s acting continues to improve, as he confronts Dan and then goes soul-searching at the video store. And there we meet his fellow freak Heather (the chick from Ghost World) and they hit it off. I actually really liked the DJ stuff this season better than most of the other family plots, because it felt fresh and new. (Technical note: The Conners had surround sound installed in the days before DVD players were even invented, which was a major status symbol among home theatre geeks back in the day.)

– “The War Room” Roseanne is holed up in the bedroom with Jerry and her junk food stash, so Jackie organizes an intervention with all the cast members who are around. This gives us a series of one-on-one verbal thrashings as they try to talk her out of bed, before Roseanne gets all new age and comes to life again. Oh yeah, that’s another thing about this season that bugged — Roseanne shoving all her positive energy and Kaballah garbage down our throats for the whole season. Lemme tell ya, blue collar people don’t follow the religious teachings of Madonna and Britney Spears.

– “Lanford’s Elite” Roseanne & Jackie are invited to a country club, giving us more fish out of water drama, but at least on a smaller scale than the New York crap was. And Roseanne meets Edgar Wellman (played by James Brolin), son of the original owner of the plastics factory from way back in season one. Edgar’s a pretty cool guy, but no one wanted a new love interest for Roseanne at this point in the season and fan backlash was pretty huge. Turns out Edgar wants her help in keeping the factory open, which appeals to her new unselfish attitude. That’s so not her.

– “Some Enchanted Merger” Roseanne is all “Edgar, Edgar, Edgar” and Jackie accuses her of having a crush, and so we get more fantasy sequences. Speaking of lust, DJ goes to Mark looking for romantic advice and that kicks off a nice little story arc between them as Mark takes DJ under his wing. Roseanne equating sex with donuts is pretty funny, the rest is not.

– “A Second Chance” Dan returns…again…ruining Roseanne’s attempts at inner peace and now sporting his Lebowski beard. So they leave the crowded house and drive around the city talking about stuff. But just when things are looking up, Darlene goes into premature labor.

– “The Miracle” The baby is coming way too early, and it’s the old lesson about how money can’t impress nature. Really good stuff from everyone involved, as it’s not an episode played for laughs at all and everyone wonders about the universe conspiring against them. Again, the spiritual aspect is getting really ham-fisted now, but it’s an Emmy-worthy moment for Sara Gilbert.

Disc Four

– “Roseanne-Feld” Mark continues mentoring DJ, having given up on David (“You’re a guy, you’re always at that stage of the relationship.”) then takes Jackie to the local wrestling show. I wonder if the writers knew the extra humor in having an idiot fan be named “Mark”? Leon & Scott double-date with Bev and her new gal-pal Joyce and deteriorate further into swishy stereotypes. Heather puts the moves on a frustrated DJ while over-analyzing Return of the Jedi and leaves the poor kid digging through Dan’s sock drawer for condoms and only finding Ho-Hos instead. For those keeping track, that’s the SECOND legitimate big laugh I found in this season, both courtesy DJ.

– “The Truth Be Told” The light-hearted finish to the show continues with network bigwigs fighting over the rights to the Conner story. An Anna Nicole Smith joke here falls very flat now, of course. Bob “Super Dave” Einstein, one of the untold comic geniuses of the 20th century, breezes in as the president of the ABX network and effortlessly deadpans his way into the MVP award for the episode. Let’s count ’em off! “Fat works in daytime, not in primetime!” “I have been doing this for a long time — over a year and a half!” And my favorite, after he lists his degrees from famous colleges, Roseanne asks him how he got his job and he notes “My dad’s friend got it for me.” And then an executive from “HBO” pitches to Roseanne in the exact opposite direction, wanting her to sleaze up her story, complete with graphic examples, like turning Becky into a lesbian and having Roseanne be naked while winning the lottery. Just a crazy, light-hearted episode with tons of inside jokes.

– “Arsenic and Old Mom” Dan’s mom returns from her exile at the hospital, apparently fine as long as she takes her pills. And when she decides not to, she becomes nuts and pissed at her son, to the point where she’s trying to kill him and even normally-paranoid Roseanne won’t buy into sweet old Debbie Reynolds as a psychopath. Dan’s reactions to all the craziness are great, and the whole “I’ll bury him alive” run with Roseanne finally clueing in is hilarious. Too little, too late for the show, though.

– “Into That Good Night”. And finally, the finale. Roseanne & Dan prep DJ’s room for Darlene & David and the baby, and it’s the last episode dealing with Roseanne’s empty nest issues. We get a callback to the first episode, with Darlene barking in class way back in the pilot, and everyone eats pizza and gives thanks and that probably would have (and should have) been the perfect end to the series. But it wasn’t. Part two (after a syndication split inserted with a chainsaw) sees everyone talking to the baby in a fairly pointless run, and we learn that Becky is pregnant, although the family never does. Because hey, all the women must be pregnant, or gay, or both. And then one final callback as the spinning kitchen opening for the show with everyone happy and eating is re-enacted again, and you’re thinking that’s a good way to exit as well, but you’d be WRONG again. Because Roseanne just had to put that one final bullet in her show, and she narrates the ending by revealing that the whole thing was just a novel that she was writing to deal with her grief over Dan’s death. Oh, and Jackie is really gay, not her mom. And David married Becky, not Darlene, while Mark married Darlene. And there was no lottery. And we finish with one final pretentious quote from TE Lawrence as everyone leaves unhappy. Hey, it’s a SITCOM. It’s supposed to have a HAPPY ending, not a stupid “Everything was a dream and everyone is still basically unhappy” ending. Even if the rest of the season had progressed as it had and they had ended with the happy pizza scene, I would have said “Eh, it was weak, but everything turned out OK in the end,” but this ending just totally destroyed the show and was one final ego-driven train wreck from Roseanne.

I think the basic problem with the show as well was the lowered production quality. All the writers were essentially Roseanne herself, or her unknown cronies, and the direction for the last season was also pretty bad, too. There was no creative filter like you might have gotten in previous seasons with an experienced writer or director, and as a result every stupid idea that flowed from Roseanne’s brain made it to the screen. While the middle seasons might have had their ups and downs, this one is one huge down, with no laughs to be found, and it’s easily one of the best examples of what happens when a sitcom stays on the air far too long. Study it for your TV history class if you must, but don’t buy it for the entertainment value.

The Extras

– You get a “video commentary” from her highness and Michael “DJ” Fishman on “The Truth be Told”, and both are brutal at doing these things. It’s a ton of dead air and Michael occasionally laughing at the jokes.

– “A Legacy of Class” and “Breaking the Sitcom Mold”. A pair of 6:00 interviews with Roseanne, where she STILL insists on defending her creative choices from this season to this day.

The Pulse:

I get these sets for free and I still feel like I overpaid. To be absolutely avoided at all costs, unless you just want to buy it to complete the collection and never watch it again.

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