Review: Roseanne: The Ninth Season

Roseanne is one of my favorite TV sitcoms of all time, mainly because it wasn’t stylized but was more of a slice-of-life type of show with normal people rather than caricatures. Roseanne Barr is an inspiration to me in terms of comedic talent and timing and her quite unconventional, into your face type of humor. In short, she is real and I liked that.

However, I found this season more than demoralizing as most everyone acts out of character and their actions are so absurd and far fetched – bordering at unbelievable. There were times I seriously thought this was another show. It is as if the characters had no self awareness as to who they are and their pasts (continuity) and as if their personalities were rewritten to be new people. For example, the Dan we met in all the previous eight seasons would never have cheated on Roseanne. He was just not the type. If he _did_ cheat on her because he now all of a sudden had the riches to be able to afford such indiscretions, it still would be out of character for him because – again – the Dan we met is not someone who’d cheat on his wife. So no matter how you twist and turn it, this just doesnt make sense.

And then seeing Darlene go from being a free spirited, ambitious and somewhat jaded artist – who was the first Connor to go to college and out of Lanford – suddenly act all homely, sweet, calm and tender and decide to lead the kind of life her mother essentially had (and which she loathed), also seems out of place. In the previous season she got a job for a pretty decent salary in a publishing house, and now we are to believe that she gave all that up to be a mommy? That is so out of character. By the ninth season she even moves in with her parents no questions asked and apparently forgets everything about her ambitions in order to become what….a good housewife? Darlene?

Jackie’s role is reduced to that of merely ornamental. She used to be so funny and quirky and involved from the beginning on and starting around season 8, her role was reduced to one walking around with a baby in her arm, running into a room screaming something and then leaving again. Throughout the series, Jackie’s presence in Roseanne’s life had a profound meaning; you knew these women were really each others’ best friends and the extent to which Jackie’s presence was essential for Roseanne and her family was also very well worked out. All that is lost starting season 8 and especially in this season and the two barely ever have any meaningful exchange anymore.

I think frankly, a lot of it might have to do with Roseanne’s character (or in fact Roseanne Barr herself) who has – since season 6 – increasingly turned into just an annoying and unfunny figure. She is mean, vile, and unpleasant to be around. While in the first 5 or 6 seasons, there was a charm to her character and its causticity, because she was genuine and real, in Seasons 7 and 8 and now 9, there is a bitter aftertaste in your mouth every time she is in a scene and says something. I mean she never has anything intelligent to say, she never listens to anyone and she talks shit ALL THE TIME. She also treats everyone like crap and while before that was actually cute, it is very annoying and sickening now.

I think it has to do with the fact that Roseanne Barr herself, while this season was being shot, was having the hyper kind of life with all the success going in over her head, and plastic surgery (which made her look like a freak if you ask me) and divorcing her second husband to marry her bodyguard. She was becoming arrogant due to the previous successes of the show and really no longer was the blue collar down to Earth person we got to know in the beginning. To make matters worse, she was also given more creative control and wrote some of the episodes – which in turn would explain their sheer insanity.

It is interesting to observe the kind of evolution TV shows go through as they move along in years.

1) At first they start off very down to earth and innocent and actually as pretty original. They are feel-good shows, cozy, fun, simple.

3) Then, as the show takes off in both ratings and reviews as well as with respect to the fame and popularity of its tars, something happens. The writers become lazy or are replaced quickly (thus the old formula is lost as everyone thinks they need to hire new folks to write exotic and outrageous scripts). The dynamic of the show changes accordingly. Now all cast members are stars and important, and the show reflects that and in a way moves away from the simple beginnings. As the private lives of the stars change, so do their characters. There is often a spill-over effect into the show from behind the camera glamour. Roseanne Barr herself did undergo a huge transformation, going from a simple, blue collar unremarkable woman to a Hollywood star winning numerous awards and leading an exotic, fancy lifestyle. Such dramatic changes will not go unnoticed in the show.

3) Finally, the show ends on some absurd or far-fetched note, often something dramatic and sappy; a 180 degree turn from how it started out. In this last segment, the characters are often unrecognizable and rarely resemble the people we saw in the first few seasons. to the point where you wish you’d never seen this.

This is exactly what happened to Roseanne beginning with Season 7. They completely messed up the show by turning 180 degrees and making it into some kind of an alive version of Roseanne Barr’s insanity. The show started off fresh, down to earth, warm and kind but it just ended with Roseanne’s obvious insanity and neurosis’ from some kind of a midlife crisis she had and too much fame. Winning the lottery, Dan getting a heart attack, cheating on her, dying, Beverly a lesbian at 70 – and then what was up with all those superfluous plot lines involving Leon and boyfriend. Come on. They should have stopped after the 7th season. This ending was just a depressing downward spiral unworthy of the spirit of the show.

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  1. Roseanne | Totally 90s

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