The First Season
Roseanne was a popular sitcom from the late eighties and its cast has been given numerous awards for their performances. The series is about a lower class family living in Lanford, Illinois and struggling through that odd thing we call life. The show has an intrinsic cast and they are a hard family not to like. Roseanne looks at some of the most common daily situations from the home and the work place. In most cases these situations turn out to be funny. However unlike some sitcoms that rely on slapstick comedy to make ordinary situations a riot, Roseanne uses witty dialogue to get laughs. All in all, I like this show and watching the first season was a lot of fun (seeing as I've never had the chance to watch an entire season episode for episode, I caught reruns on syndication). But despite my positive enthusiasm about the series, this first season didn't leave me wanting more. It was fun, but not that fun. This box set is probably best as a rental, unless of course, you are a big fan of the series.
The main cast of Roseanne is made up of six people, all members of the Conner family. Most obviously we have Roseanne Barr playing Roseanne. She is a factory worker at Wellman Plastics, an overtaxed mother of three, and a loving wife. Barr adds a distinct personality to her character. She can be racy, direct, and outrageous and under it all, you see a woman who loves her family. Barr's acting performance and deliver of dialogue is one of the key elements that made this a successful show. Across from Roseanne is John Goodman as Dan. He is a contractor who is more often than not out of work, a caring husband, and an all around likeable guy. Goodman makes the perfect match to play the husband of Roseanne and he highly animated way of acting makes him a funny guy.
Their kids include Becky (Lecy Goranson), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), and D.J. (Michael Fishman). Becky is the older child and she is straight A, model student, who is just coming into her prime (boys). In future seasons she's going to turn out to be a handful for Roseanne and Dan. Darlene is the middle child. She's an eleven year old tomboy who is more interested in sports than academics or boys. She's generally at the root of any troublemaking scheme the kids are into. D.J. is the youngest and he's the cute kid who just says silly things that make you laugh. In this first season the children do not play a big part, but in later seasons they do. For instance as Darlene gets older, she begins to develop an outspoken and rebellious attitude that make her a unique character. Although we do see small traces of it in this season.
The last cast member is Jackie (Laurie Metcalf). She is Roseanne's sister, a single thirty-two year old woman who usually spends her Saturday nights at the Conner household. I thought it was odd to see her in this first season. Her character is very different than how she appears in later seasons. But either way, she is a great character. Metcalf plays off of Barr and Goodman well and their exchange in dialogue is almost always worth a laugh. Some reprised roles for this season include Booker (George Clooney), the Wellman Plastics factory manager and odd love interest for Jackie, and Crystal (Natalie West), a good family friend and fellow Wellman Plastics employee. This first season also has an appearance from Estelle Parsons as Bev Harris, Roseanne and Jackie's mother. She gives an outstanding performance of the nagging mother type.
As earlier mentioned, it's the cast together that makes this show something special. They have an interesting chemistry and can turn some dull everyday situations into something funny by using witty dialogue and not outrageous unrealistic slapstick comedy. Besides comedy, the show also incorporates some drama into its stories. Through these events the ties and bonds within the Conner family are developed. They reveal more about what kind of people the Conners are and in the end it leaves you liking them more than before. For instance in the episode "Mall Story" Roseanne and Dan do one small thing for their daughter Becky that really shows what kind of parents they are. Then there is also "Memory Game", where Roseanne deals with the fact Dan had a one night stand with someone else when they were separated. It is episodes like these that make the Conner family both real and likeable.
Overall I enjoyed watching the complete first season on DVD. But even so, the experience did not really impact me. I think this show is fun to sit through, but it is not something I would imagine wanting to do again. With that said, I think Roseanne is probably best as a rental. I'm looking forward to seeing future episodes when the Conner family gets a little more outrageous, especially when Mark (Glenn Quinn) and David (Johnny Galecki) join the cast.
1. Life And Stuff
2. We're In The Money
4. Language Lessons
5. Radio Days
6. Lovers' Lane*
7. The Memory Game
8. Here's To Good Friends
9. Dan's Birthday Bash
11. Cangoa Time
12. The Monday Thru Friday Show
13. Bridge Over Troubled Sonny
14. Father's Day
15. Nightmare On Oak Street
16. Mall Story
17. Becky's Choice
18. The Slice Of Life
19. Workin' Overtime
20. Toto, We're Not In Kansas Anymore*
21. Death And Stuff*
22. Dear Mom And Dad
23. Let's Call It Quits
*Roseanne Barr provides video commentary for these episodes.
Please note the episodes included in this box are the syndicated versions. In other words these episodes are not the originally aired episodes and are missing footage.
The video is given in its original television aspect ratio 1.33:1 full frame color. Overall, the picture looks decent. The transfer is a little dirty with a noticeable grain and other imperfections (minor aliasing, rough edges, and compression artifacts). Still considering it is from the late 1980s, it is an acceptable transfer and shouldn't ruin the viewing experience.
The audio track included with this release is English 2.0 Dolby digital stereo sound. The sound quality is good with dialogue consistently audible. It is an average TV on DVD track. It is dialogue driven and as a result remains pretty flat and has very little distinction with channel separation. This release does not come with subtitles, but it is closed caption enabled.
The first extra included in this box set is a featurette with Barr herself. In Roseanne on Roseanne: A New Candid Interview (9:01), Barr talks about the series, how it was based upon her own personal life, her general experience with the other cast members, and other series related comments. Next we have another featurette John Goodman Takes A Look Back (7:04) which has Goodman talking about his experience on the show. For both of the featurettes, a lot of the material is made up of clips from the series and there is not actually a lot of interview time. Following the theme of featurettes and reusing existing footage, the featurette Wisdom From The Domestic Goddess (5:17) is a montage of clips from the series where Roseanne delivers punchlines. Season One Highlights (6:22) is another montage of clips from season one. Steering away from the montage featurettes Bloopers (10:57) is nearly eleven minutes of goofs, where the cast members screw up their lines. Finally, there are four short video commentaries. Overall there didn't feel like there was much effort put into the extras, considering it was mostly reused footage from the seasons and that has limited appeal.
Roseanne was never my sitcom of choice and despite it not being one of my favorite's, but it is still a show I enjoyed watching. The series has a witty down to earth feeling, with a solid cast who works well together and some common everyday situations that can be fun to see how the Conner family gets through them. I think this show is great to watch and I look forward to future seasons, but the experience of watching season one in its entirety wasn't so breathtaking it left me wanting to watch it again. The bottom line, I think this box set is great for a rental. Also, be warned it has been confirmed that the episodes in this box set are not the originally aired episodes. They are the cut for syndication episodes and that means there is footage missing.