One boomer’s take on the Roseanne reboot

There’s a new show on TV that’s not really new at all. It’s a reboot of Rosanne, and since writer Amy McVay Abbott lives in the town where the episodes take place, she writes about what’s new, and what’s not.

The “Roseanne” TV show reboot is upon us. Those of us who live in real life Lanford — Evansville, Indiana — wonder if the new show will hold up to the original.

Photo by @nickmeece

Roseanne and her fictional partner in the original TV series, Dan Connor, could have been my cousins. I understood why they made specific choices. They were fiercely protective of their children, yet struggled with everyday issues like teenage sex, drugs, and balancing children’s needs against those of aging parents. Like me, they were baby boomers, dealing with job loss, business failure, and high mortgage interest.

Amy Abbott

Evansville is where producer Matt Williams attended college, and that’s why he made it the model for fictional Lanford. In the 1988 season, Roseanne and her sister worked at the fictional Wellman Plastics. It closes years after Roseanne walked off the job. Real-life Evansville retains several plastics companies, while Whirlpool, a significant employer, left town for sunnier pastures.

The show returns with two thirty minute episodes. Pundits have written that it will deal head-on with today’s social issues, as it did during its first run. Some have reported that the Connors voted for Trump, while sister Jackie voted for Clinton. Is this a predictable development?

It rings hollow to me, considering the stances Roseanne took on the original show. After their first daughter married at 17, Roseanne approached her second daughter about contraception. The Connors allowed their daughter’s boyfriend to move into their basement and get away from an abusive mother.

Photo by @nickmeece

In a favorite episode, son D.J. says he doesn’t want to “kiss a girl” in a school play. Roseanne visits D.J.’s teacher, unaware the girl is African-American. The teacher assumes the Connors are racist. The Connors are forced to face a hidden bias. One night Roseanne and her sister Jackie are about to close their diner, the Lunch Box, when an unknown African-American male comes to the door. Roseanne quickly flips the Open sign to Closed. The man yells that he is the parent of the child D.J. doesn’t want to kiss.

Photo by @nickmeece

This episode represents the depth of this show. Flawed individuals, struggling in a complex world, make mistakes and learn from them. Compare “Roseanne” to a another show from the era, “Murphy Brown,” also featuring a baby boomer, Candice Bergen. The character development is less intimate.

Some pundits have suggested that exploring current political themes may provide fodder for less tribal discussions. How ironic that someone who fumbled the “National Anthem” at a baseball game could enable healing dialogue.

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4 Comments

  1. Good post — I for one will NOT be watching the updated version. Roseanne’s character was always too abrasive and whiny for me, the first time around. I enjoyed the other characters, but I agree being a Trump voter doesn’t seem to fit for the most part. However, I do see people around me who voted for him in the errant belief that somehow he could bring back factory jobs, which really were lost to technology.

  2. Thanks Amy for an insightful, informative article on the “Roseanne” shows, old and new.

    I loved the original because it was so real. In addition, the writing was funny and witty.

    But, I have reservations about the new show. I struggle with conflicting emotions. Sadly, in my humble opinion, Roseanne’s public behavior is not funny or consistent. She confuses me.

    1. I hear what you are saying, though I haven’t heard much about her in a number of years. As a result of this story, a friend sent me an interview RB had with Jimmy Fallon after I wrote this story. Must take a look. Will be interesting to see how the public reacts to the new show.

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