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Green Bay Press-Gazette

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Living in Lanford with a summer of "Roseanne" reruns

It probably isn’t encouraging to know that a TV show written two decades ago best captures the depressing economic climate felt by lower and middle class America in 2009.

But when TV Land started airing semi-nightly marathons of “Roseanne” last month, it became readily apparent that Roseanne Conner not only had Lanford, Illinois pegged under the first George Bush presidency. The trials and tribulations felt by her family of everyday schlubs would still resonate even after a second Bush left office.

That’s not a knock on which party happens to hold the Presidential reins. Instead, it’s simply about the vicious economic cycle that tormented the Conners all those years they sat bemused on their ugly couch with its tattered afghan.

Depressing? Yes. Still funny after all these years? Absolutely.

Having DVR'd the nightly marathons these past two weeks, I've come to not only enjoy “Roseanne” as something to pass the time during summer doldrums. I've become a full-fledged fan.

Watching the show in 2009 makes one thing abundantly clear: Roseanne and Dan were doing their best despite the crummy hand they were dealt.

Had I been forced to describe the show based on sporadic teenage viewings, I probably would have said something about the kids being given the short end of the stick when it came to love and support from their Godzilla-like parents. And while Roseanne's overbearing persona certainly used fear as a means of intimidation, she was always a thoughtful mother with realistic expectations and demands.

I also underestimated the brilliance of Goodman, who complimented Roseanne's character perfectly. Dan is the Joe the Plumber-ish everyman who dreams of getting ahead but probably isn't equipped to do so. So he enjoys the little things in life, tries to bury his head in the sand about his daughters' difficulties, but when called upon, always comes through without making so much as a dent in the Father of the Year standings. He also delivers the kind of levity and humor that's needed in a house dripping with acid-tongued sarcasm.

“Roseanne's” real beauty is that it painted a depressing picture of lower-middle class America, but made the family relatable to anyone who's dealt with any type of dysfunction. Sarcasm undercut the toughest blows, but wisely, the main culprits weren't scary factors like alcoholism or abuse.

Instead, Becky was a rebellious teenager who thought she had the world figured out at 16, Darlene was an independent, artistic oddball who didn't really need parenting, and DJ was the ignored third child who tended to skate by without much harm inflicted on anyone who crossed his path. Roseanne and Dan faced life-altering economic hardships yet had enough marital discipline to withstand all the money problems and immature mis-steps of their children.

Even better, when uncomfortable discussions about masturbation or birth control came up, both handled it as though they remembered what it actually meant to be a teenager instead of climbing up the walls like parents who couldn't believe what the modern-day adolescent had turned into. "All in the Family" probably invented the rulebook when it came to breaking "sitcom family" boundaries, but upon further viewing, "Roseanne" took it to a level that not only feels appropriate today, but might just be perfect.

When asked recently what the Conner clan would be up to today, Roseanne said DJ would probably have been killed in Iraq and the Conners would have lost their house.

Now that would be a depressing show to watch.

Unfortunately, you only have to walk next door to realize we’re not talking about a TV show after all.

-- Thomas Rozwadowski,




By Anonymous Anonymous, At July 12, 2011 at 9:56 PM  

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