Shows like The Wonder Years, Growing Pains, Murphy Brown, Dallas, and Dynasty ruled television in the 80’s and 90’s, and had for many years. However once Roseanne debuted in 1988, a new kind of family was presented to audiences, introducing a new kind matriarch. Admired for its representation of blue-collar America, this Emmy winning series broke ground thanks to its envelope pushing storylines (in this era anyways.) Buckle up though, it’s making a comeback. March 27, 2018 is when Roseanne returns to your TV screens for an eight episode run. This is precisely why we’re taking a closer look at the behind the scenes workings of one of America’s most beloved series.
Paving The Way For Comedians
Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner were two TV producers that were interested in creating a show about a working mother. When they witnessed Roseanne Barr’s “outspoken domestic goddess comedy routine” on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson in 1985, they didn’t hesitate to offer her a show. Barr wasn’t the first performer to go from stand up to TV either, but her ABC show was an instantaneous success. As a result of Barr’s success, other comedians found themselves starring in their very own shows: such as Tim Allen (Home Improvement), Brett Butler (Grace Under Fire), Ellen DeGeneres (Ellen), and Ray Romano (Everybody Loves Raymond), to name a few.
Roseanne VS Life and Stuff
Matt Williams is the creator, head writer, and executive producer of Roseanne, however he originally wanted to name the show Life and Stuff. Williams believed that the kind title of the show established it as ensemble piece. However Roseanne Barr argued that the title was all wrong and should instead be called Roseanne as she is the lead character and the show is based on her life. Guess we know who won that argument!
John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf were originally cast with an ulterior motive. Producers wanted Roseanne to be surrounded with a strong supporting cast as she had never acted before. They felt having experienced professionals for her to rely on would give her a crash course in acting. Moreover Barr and Goodman had perfect chemistry and were bickering like a married couple from their very first reading together.
Macaulay Culkin Auditioned for the Part of D.J.
Two years before Macaulay Culkin landed his ground breaking role in Home Alone, he auditioned for the role of D.J.. However the role went to Michael Fishman instead, he had replaced Sal Barone from the pilot episode. Barone not only hit a growth spurt but also didn’t get along with his sister Darlene, Sara Gilbert. Barr told Entertainment Weekly, “I wanted Michael Fishman because he looked like my family and he was a little Russian boy. He was so not like all the other little Hollywood bastards.” Fishman said, “The network wanted one person, the production company wanted another person, and she wanted me. In many ways, I’m one of the first battles she won.”
No Emmy Nominations
While Roseanne was critically acclaimed, it was never nominated for an Emmy for the ‘Best Comedy Series’ category. Laurie Metcalf would win three consecutive Emmys for ‘Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series’ for her role as Jackie, Roseanne’s sister. However the show itself never earned a Best Comedy Series nomination. Moreover John Goodman, AKA Dan Conner, was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor seven years in a row, but he never walked away with an award.
An Open Show
This was the first time that a primetime show featured openly gay characters! While the network protested against the idea, Barr insisted that they show gay characters as her friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors. In season eight, Barr’s former boss Leon (Martin Mull) marries his partner Scott (Fred Willard) – sure, that doesn’t seem controversial at all now but back then, it definitely was. Later, Roseanne’s own mother comes out of the closet. Plus, in the weird “it was all a dream” finale, Jackie (Roseanne’s sister) is found out to be a lesbian.
Joss Whedon’s Career
Joss Whedon, who went on to create Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., got his start as a staff writer on Roseanne. He was just 24 when he wrote four episodes for season two. Looking at him now, he’s got an impeccable career and it all started on Roseanne! Splitsider later looked at Whedon’s style, “While John Goodman is a national treasure who can make any material work, Whedon’s take on his character stands out: Dan is goofier and more removed from the action, and notably less agitated than when written by other writers … In these episodes, Dan Conner transforms into the Whedon proto-male a.k.a. the ‘Xander:’ an affable, quipping observer defined more by the women around him than by any strong internal life.”
All three of Roseanne Barr’s ex-husbands made a guest appearance on the show. Her first husband, Bill Pentland, was an executive consultant for three seasons, wrote two episodes, and also played one of Dan’s buddies early on. After 16 years of marriage and three children, Barr divorced. Just four days later, she married the comedian Tom Arnold, who would have a recurring role as Arnie Thomas. In 1995 Barr married her former bodyguard Ben Thomas, and he had two roles on the show as a cop, these are his only acting credits.
The One and Only
As you know John Goodman played the role of Dan Conner from 1988 to 1997. How he never won an Emmy for his role is beyond us! Anyways, it turns out that Goodman was actually the first and only actor to have auditioned for the role of Dan Conner. Whoa.
In the last season of Roseanne, the theme song dramatically changed. After eight seasons of an instrumental version, Roseanne went with a new theme, thanks to Blues Traveler’s John Popper, in it’s ninth and final season. The change in song foreshadowed a way more bizarre finale that left many viewers puzzled.
ABC actually required for the Conner family to visit Disney World. In season eight, the Conners visited The Happiest Place on Earth…earth. But there’s a reason for that. In 1995, the ABC-Walt Disney Company merger required for family shows to feature an episode in Disney World or Disneyland. Boys Meets World, Full House, and Family Matters featured at least one Disney episode.
1990 is when Roseanne Barr got a spin-off deal for a rather interesting conception, a Saturday morning cartoon! Little Rosey was an animated series about Roseanne in real life when she was a child. In the first season though, Roseanne didn’t voice her character which many believe is why the show didn’t take off. However in season two, Roseanne took over but the show was suddenly canceled and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles took its slot. Barr claims that ABC axed the show because they were insulted by her rendition of the National Anthem during a San Diego Padres game.
Not a Happy Ending
Barr once made a prediction of where the Conners would be today, but it’s not a happy ending. In 2008, she told Entertainment Weekly, “I’ve always said now that if they were on TV, D.J. would have been killed in Iraq and [the Conners] would have lost their house.” A year later, in her blog she also mentioned Becky’s job at Walmart, David and Darlene getting a divorce, and Roseanne and Jackie opening the very first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford. Let’s wait and see what happens in the reboot!
Roseanne Barr has always desired to return to primetime TV however nothing ever came into fruition. Once Roseanne was off the air in 1997, ABC thought about doing a sequel about the main character’s life as a widow, but it never materialized. Since then, Barr has had a reality series, a talk show, and some sitcoms in the works. In 2011, she filmed a pilot, Downwardly Mobile, about life in a trailer park but NBC didn’t pick it up. 2013 is when she almost had a deal with NBC for a 10/90 sitcom deal but it never happened. Guess this reboot is finally her comeback to primetime TV.
I’ll Be Back
Even though the original show finished with Dan dying, he will be alive and well in the revival. There is no clear indication of how that particular storyline plays out though. Whether the show will ignore what happened in season eight or something else, we’ll just have to wait and see just how John Goodman resumes his role as Dan.