"Let's say grace," Roseanne says before a family dinner. "Jackie, would you like to take a knee?"
After a hiatus of more than twenty years, "Roseanne" returned to ABC Tuesday night with new back-to-back episodes. The 10th season picked things up right where we left them, with the Conner family struggling to make ends meet and grappling with the hot topics of the day like healthcare, gender identity, and the 2016 battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
With the exception of the weird 9th season (never speak of it!), "Roseanne" has always excelled at tackling tough issues, and the revival certainly didn't shy away from the most controversial issue of the day, pitting Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) and Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) on either side of the great political divide of our time. In a move surprising to Jackie and "Roseanne" fans alike, Roseanne Conner voted for Donald Trump (much like Barr did).
But while many decided this fact alone was enough to avoid the show, "Roseanne" didn't just twist her character into something different. Roseanne Conner voted for Trump for the same reason that many lower-income households struggling to make ends meet did. He promised to shake things up in Washington, and clearly the status quo wasn't working out all that great for them.
Each week, TooFab is going to take a look at all the topical issues "Roseanne" is mining for humor and commentary, pulling out the funniest moments.
TRUMP V CLINTON
"Roseanne" wore its politics perhaps most directly in its first episode back, with Roseanne and Jackie squaring off from opposite ends of the political spectrum. The episode opened with them having not spoken for a year after their votes, and Jackie arriving in full "left" gear, sporting a pussy hat and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words "Nasty Woman."
"What's up deplorable," Jackie greeted Roseanne.
- "Knee still giving you trouble?" Jackie asked Roseanne. "Why don't you get that fixed with the new healthcare you all got promised?"
- "It works good enough to kick your ass, snowflake," Roseanne responded.
- "There you go. All you people go straight to the violence. Every one of ya, wrapping yourselves up in the flag and clinging to your guns."
"Oh that's such a stereotype."
- "Aunt Jackie thinks every girl should grow up to be president even if they're a liar, liar pantsuit on fire."
"I think we know who's a liar and whose pants are on fire, Roseanne."
- "First let's say grace. Jackie, would you like to take a knee?"
Finally, they got to the real conversation about why Roseanne supported Trump, and it was a reasonable explanation when you consider that in the very next episode Roseanne chided Dan for eating potpourri, telling him he needed to pour milk on it first. This family is representative of a large segment of Trump supporters, and his message spoke to them.
- "How could you have voted for him, Roseanne?"
- "He talked about jobs. He said he'd shake things up. I mean, this might come as a complete shock to you but we almost lost our house the way things are going."
- "Have you looked at the news, 'cause now things are worse."
- "Not on the real news." (nice jab about the serious issues in the media there)
The other major hot topic of discussion for the premiere episodes was the issue of gender identity in the expanding LGBTQ+ community. Darlene's young son Mark chooses to dress in girls clothing, and it's certainly not something Dan (John Goodman) or Roseanne understand at all. Like a good modern parent, though, their daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert) has read the books and is choosing to be supportive. Dan is understandably concerned that Mark's self-expression isn't going to go over well in their small town Midwest community.
- "Darlene says just to ignore it. He's exploring," Roseanne told Dan after Mark came in wearing pink leggings.
"May the wind fill his sails and carry him to the boys section of Target," Dan responded.
- "My nails are wet," Mark told Dan at another point.
- "Did you hear that, honey. My grandson's nails are wet."
- "I like your nail polish, grandpa."
"That's drywall, son."
"I'm totally cool with girls who like basketball and boys who like sewing, but you're dreaming if you think he isn't in for a world of hurt," Dan said about Mark going to school dressed as he does. (but he wasn't being completely honest with Darlene or himself)
- "When did masculine become a dirty word?" Dan asked Darlene later. "I'm scared for him. If I don't get what's going on what do you think a classroom full of 10-year-olds from Lanford are gonna do?"
Finally Roseanne sat Mark down to really try and get a grip on what was going on with him. While she didn't understand why he was dressing the way he was, she at least knew how to approach the issue with sensitivity and understanding, without shying away from the reality Mark will be facing from his peers.
- "Do you feel like you're a boy or a girl?" she asked him.
- "A boy."
- "Well you answered that pretty quick. I thought it was going to be more complicated. So what's up with the girls clothes?"
- "This just feels like me. I like colors that pop. It's more creative."
- "Well your mom's creative so I get that. But here's the thing. You gotta pick your fights in life. How important is this to you?"
- "It's important."
- "Okay. Well, you know it's gonna be rough on you in school, but we'll back you up."
It's not as simple as gay or straight or transgender right now. All Mark knows is that this feels right, and for now, that's enough. And more importantly, while he's working on figuring out who he is, his family has his back.
After the cold open, the premiere launched with Dan coming back from the pharmacy with his and Roseanne's "candy," only it's not what they're used to getting. "Funny story, our insurance don't cover what it used to, so I got half the drugs for twice the price," he explained. And then they, like many Americans with limited funds and coverage, had to make decisions about which drugs they could take to best manage their various ailments. For the Conners, it was a barter and trade system.
Darlene always seemed like the kid who was going to go places, and she thought so, too. Instead, she found herself a single parent moving back home with her parents in the first episode. "I lost my job, okay. I mean, what do you want me to say?" Darlene said after Roseanne discovered her severance check. "I didn't know what else to do. I got two kids, no partner, so I came home."
Again, this is a reality more and more people are facing in a struggling economy, as it's getting harder and harder for single parents and adult children to afford to live on their own, with many of them ultimately moving back in with their parents. After she came clean, Roseanne gave her a warm hug and called her a loser. A generation later, "Roseanne" is accurately reflecting a segment of our society with humor couched in sensitivity, support and love.
One of the first things we saw in the trailer was Dan asking Roseanne, "Why does everybody always think I'm dead?" It was one of several nods to the series' original run. At the end of Season 9, it was revealed that that entire season had been a book Roseanne wrote to cope with the apparent death of Dan.
- "Well, lookie here, written by Roseanne Conner," Dan said in the garage, clearly referencing Season 9's book.
- "Oh trash that," Roseanne said (she knows it was garbage)
- "This would have sold like hotcakes if only you hadn't killed off the most interesting character. He was a gentle giant."
- "You know what would have really helped, though. More bondage and a wizard school."
The writers couldn't help themselves when reviving the series, casting both actresses who portrayed Becky in the original run. Lecy Goranson originated the role, so she's Becky again, which meant Sarah Chalke (who took over the role later) was brought in as a different character ... and the two of them could meet on-screen for the first time.
- "It is so great to finally meet you," Chalke's Andrea said.
- "And I can see why you picked me. I mean, look at us. We could be the same person," Becky said. (they could not look more different)
- "Oh my god, it is like looking in a mirror ... before I put my makeup on."