Television audiences were introduced to Roseanne during the heyday of the congeniality that was The Cosby Show. Unlike the New York City, brownstone-housed Huxtable family, Rosanne was a blustering and direct overweight mother of three who quickly became the hero of blue-collar working folk all across America. Key to the show’s success was the huge amount of heart heaped on the Connor family. Though Roseanne and husband Dan (the always brilliant John Goodman) might at first seem brash, barking orders at their children, it’s all done with an undertone of love, affection, and pure wit. Doesn’t everyone wish they had a mother who could spit out clever one-liners (“This is why some animals eat their young”) at the dinner table while making valid points and effectively lightening the mood at the same time? Season one tackles serious subject matter such as the instability of marriage (“D-I-V-O-R-C-E”), death (“Death and Stuff”), and the awkwardness of puberty (“Nightmare on Oak Street”) with humor, wisely avoiding the didactic feel of an Afterschool Special. The latter episode, one of the best included here, gives standout Sara Gilbert a chance to shine as Darlene. Having found its stride early on, Roseanne‘s first season is very consistent with only a few turkeys thrown into the bunch. (The melodramatic “Toto, We’re Not in Kansas Anymore” provides a few chuckles but lacks the charm of the rest of the collection.) Roseanne also supplied a young George Clooney with a steady paycheck in between stints on The Facts of Life and ER. Cast as Booker, Roseanne and Jackie’s (Laurie Metcalf) handsome and charming supervisor at the plastic factory, he’s not given much to do but look dreamy and gets to flirt with Jackie. It’s clear the creators didn’t know which direction to take his character and Booker was quickly written off the show. And everyone knows that Alicia Goranson and Sarah Chalke played musical chairs with the Becky Connor role, but did you know that there were also two D.J.‘s? Me neither. So I was surprised to see the unfamiliar Sal Barone running around in the pilot (as well as its opening credit sequence) as the youngest of the Connor kids. The ain’t-I-so-cute Michael Fishman took over permanently beginning with episode two.
No sound problems here; Roseanne's voice is heard loud and clear. The show's production value improves as the season progresses and quite noticeably after the low-budget pilot.
Such a classic needs the proper DVD treatment but this underachieving compilation feels rushed. It's frustrating to collect all 23 episodes of the first season and exclude much-warranted commentary tracks. Instead, a handful of episodes kick off with video introductions from Roseanne, but they're so brief you can't help but feel unsatisfied. Yes, the description of the tornado episode's special effects are truly intriguing, but how about explaining Fishman's replacement of Barone? The loquacious Roseanne also shows up in a new interview, and as always, provides lots of interesting tidbits, revealing that not only did producers want to reduce her role but to also foolishly re-title the show Life and Stuff. Thankfully, Roseanne prevailed. The rest of the extras are nothing more than padding. There's the obligatory highlights reel, a "Words of Wisdom" feature (essentially another highlights reel), and bloopers, which have never been as entertaining as Hollywood thinks they are. Finally, like a dagger to the heart, Anchor Bay commits the ultimate DVD sin of all: no chapter skips! Here's hoping season two gets a more conscientious treatment.
Lackluster extras aside, Roseanne stands on its own. Fans will undoubtedly eat this up, and as she does during the show's opening title sequence, Roseanne will be laughing-this time all the way to the bank.