Why Roseanne 2.0 Has Promise for The Fans, and ABC (And a Potential Vision)


Written Flipping My Blue Collar Up by Bridger Cunningham

Love the article's opening image?  It depicted one of the best episodes from season 5 when marquee character Roseanne took on an unlikable character and lashed her silly with her slicing, vicious words.  An effective ratings juggernaut during most of its 9 seasons, Roseanne was ahead of its time as it took the wholesome family sitcom era of the late 80's/early 90's and delivered a crass dose of realism to the ever-innocent ABC.  The series struggled on the hands-on trade family, The Connors, and their extended community.  The series never shied away from tackling social issues, taboos of discussion and pioneering a brash look at how the working class survived no matter what the world or finances doled to them.

As headlined earlier today, ABC greenlighted an 8-episode miniseries for the sitcom, slated as a mid-season replacement.  Whilst solid fans of the original series are cheering, several speculate when the "revival" bubble will burst this decade.  After all, Will and Grace is returning to NBC next season on Thursdays.  Fuller House has earned serious investment from Netflix, who had ordered a record 18 episodes for its third season.  24: Legacy and Prison Break resurrected the 2000's FOX hits this season, and even 1975-84's topical One Day at a Time received a reimaging to successful results on Netflix.  All can relax, as we should wait and see how this series is written and plays out with a much-needed 21-year break.

Roseanne returns to television at a crucial time which ABC holds its signature family sitcoms as a dominating anchor on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  Aside from a poorly-advised decision to scrap Friday sitcoms, the network is strategically fostering strategies to enrich its weaker sitcoms (Fresh Off The Boat), moving two strong sitcoms into new territory to ensure prominence in later seasons (blackish moves to Tuesdays at 9pm, while American Housewife takes a welcome boost as a potential replacement for aging Modern Family in 2019).  Incidentally, Roseanne trailblazed a ratings firestorm from 1988-96, consistently placing in the Nielsen top 20 (see below).

Marquee stars in new series are a risky proposition for pilot series.  They are costly if not an in-sourced production and not guaranteed to create the same ratings fireworks they generated in their heyday.  However, Roseanne has great potential if the chips are laid down right.  Aside from Roseanne Barr, confirmed core characters are welcomed with John Goodman (Dan Conner) and Sara Abeles/Gilbert (Darlene Conner Healy), with Laurie Metcalf (Jackie Harris) also considered likely to return in prominent capacity.  Peripheral players are in order for Alicia Goranson (Becky Conner Healy #1), Johnny Galecki (David Healy), Michael Fishman (DJ Conner) and a newly-crafted role for Sarah Chalke (Becky Conner Healy #2).  A plethora of other characters would be welcome, as Sandra Bernhard (Nancy Bartlett), Estelle Parsons (Beverly Harris), Martin Mull (Leon Carp) and Fred Willard (Scott) are live, well and welcome to accent this rich casting tapestry.  In addition, a slate of newfound roles awaits 90's toddlers Andy Fredrickson, Jerry Conner and Harris Healy.  Tragically absent will be Glenn Quinn (Mark Healy) and Shelley Winters (Nana Mary), who passed in 2002 and 2006, respectively.

In order for Roseanne 2.0 to work, the writing has to be crisp and carefully plotted.  Aided by a 21-year gap, a blank slate leaves the course of the characters' continued lives to be explored.  A wise, trending approach would be to explore the backstories in the 21-year gap a la NBC's This is Us.  The outlandish departure from reality in Season 9, as well as the ominous, last moments of the finale left so many questions.  How will Dan be resurrected from the dead?  How did the Connor daughters' young marriages fare?  What will become of Jackie's lively lovelife?  Where did everyone's volatile careers progress to?  

Roseanne Barr carefully kept Roseanne 2.0 fresh in the minds of former fans through the years.  On December 20, 2009, as Roseanne dominated ratings in reruns on TV Land, Bar posted the following vision on her website:

DJ's [work] being published, Mark's dying in Iraq; David's leaving Darlene for a woman half his age, Darlene coming out of the closet and meeting a woman and having a test tube baby with her, Becky's working at Walmart, Roseanne and Jackie's opening the first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford, Arnie's becoming the best friend of the Governor of Illinois and remarrying Nancy, Bev's selling a painting for $10,000, Jerry and the grandsons forming a music group similar to the Jonas Brothers, Dan's reappearing alive after faking his death, and Bonnie's being arrested for selling crack.

Grim, indeed, yet it demonstrated a plethora of plot potential and character development.  Imagine if the following characters' lives played out as follows:

Roseanne: In a retcom of the 9th season (as Roseanne scripted multiple fictitious visions to cope with turmoil in her life), Roseanne and Dan did indeed split in 1996 following his heart attack.  However, they reconciled after the birth of their granddaughter and dealt with years of rebuilding their marriage.  After Dan's alcoholism leaves their finances in ruins, they shortsale their home, Roseanne sells her stakes in the diner in 2003 and split.  After a messy divorce, Roseanne takes a young Jerry to California and joins DJ and Darlene , who are finishing film school and editing entertainment articles, respectively.  Becoming acquainted with entertainment brass, Roseanne finally attains her dream of becoming a writer and is hired on one of her beloved soaps as a breakdown writer.

However, Mark's tragic death overseas, coupled with her family's turmoil elsewhere leave Roseanne little choice but to take a personal hiatus to return home to Lanford, Illinois to tend to a grieving Becky.  Faced with a tough life-changing decision, Roseanne quits her soap.  However, good fortune shines on her as she is extended an invitation by Carrie Fisher to become a script doctor, a career she enjoys from the comforts of her cramped little house.  As Dan reforms his issues, they reconcile and focus on family.  Their former home falls into foreclosure and ruin, leaving Dan and Roseanne opportune repurchase it and renovate it.  Roseanne now writes in her former writing studio, which is now posh and outlandish after some advising from the late, great fellow script doctor, Carrie Fisher.  Flash forward to 2018, and Roseanne's offspring supply the central conflicts.

Dan: After his split from Roseanne, Dan makes efforts to reclaim his health and his marriage.  Setbacks in the early 2000's, particularly DJ and Darlene leaving state, lead Dan to resort to drinking and lose his career, plunging the family into ruins.  The 2000's continue to shine unkind fortunes on Dan, who lives in a cramped basement of Becky and Mark.  He regains his sobriety from arch-nemesis mother-in-law Bev also struggling with the disease, and the two form an enriched foil dynamic.  After Mark dies overseas in Iraq in 2006, Dan steps up as the man of the Healy house to tend to a broken Becky.  To inspire Becky to return to school, Dan joins her as well, taking classes to gain knowledge of the computer world.  After said developments in Roseanne's passage, Dan injures his back and must give up construction, prompting his remarriage to Roseanne.  He, however, is now a construction project manager, handling the finances as the younger trades do the grunt work.

Jackie: The finale hinted at Jackie having a late-in-life realization of her sexuality, which is explored in ensuing years.  She and Nancy engaged in a volatile fling, which nearly tanked the Lanford Lunchbox.  She also remarried Fred sometime in the late 2000's, as she was uninsured and suffering from an expensive medical setback.  Fred suffered financial ruin, and their teenage son Andy was out of control, prompting the Fredricksons to engage in a marriage of convenience, which ended not long after.  This marked the 4th failed marriage for Jackie, who is being courted by a new gentleman.  A bisexual middle-aged trainwreck, Jackie mulls this relationship given her previous track record.

Darlene: After David graduated college after the finale, he received a job as a graphic artist in Southern California, leading the Healys to make a difficult decision to leave their hometown in 2000.  Not long after, the marriage sours due to the reappearance of David's toxic mother Barbara (Sally Kirkland).  After a split in 2004, David begins seeing an younger woman and Darlene discovers she is a lesbian, leading to divorce.  Darlene struggled with her personal life, as David becomes acquainted with several Hollywood starlets (cue a cameo from Kaley Cuoco!).  After being fired for posting a controversial article regarding the Bush administration, Darlene folds up shop not long after and returns to Lanford.  Several relationships are explored, as is a strained mother/daughter relatiohsip with a difficult Harris.  Bonus points if the show revisits the love/hatedynamic with the return of Danielle Harris as Molly Tilden, Darlene's lover/former neighbor.

Image result for roseanne - darlene and molly

Becky: The greatest shock in an opening episode would be if Becky came home, stating, "Honey, I'm home," as she kisses David.  How did this happen!?  Becky and Mark struggled through much of their marriage with two children, with Becky's dream of becoming a nurse sidelined by financial woes and balancing a family.  After a strained marriage, Mark enlists in the army as Becky is relegated to working in a superstore similar to Walmart and grieves upon Mark's death.  Plunged into financial ruin and raising two children as a single mother, Becky reaches her breaking point when her family returns to support her.

An outpoor of academic encouragement from Dan and David leads Becky to finishing her degree and becoming a nurse, but she and David grow close and begin an incognito affair, which they hide from all for two years.  Darlene, angered by both's betrayal, freezes contact for a time and returns to California.  Becky and David's children/cousins cause strife in objection to the union, and the two finally marry.  Flash forward to 2018, and a 43-year old Becky discovers she is pregnant, again, paying tribute to Roseanne's late-in-life pregnancy.  This puts a wrinkle on the Healy's marriage as both are gaining career momentum.

David: As mentioned, David and Darlene's marriage implodes in the mid 2000's.  David's hubris and ego grow out of character, crashing down when he is fired during the economic recession of 2008.  He struggles to regain his footing in his career and finally bounces back, only to encounter a new juggling act.

DJ: After leaving for school, DJ's career thrives as he enjoys a new upscale lifestyle in Southern California.  Even as Roseanne, Darlene and David move nearby, he remains distant, determined his blue-collar roots were a thing of the past as he projects a new image.  A mid-30's crisis leaves a single DJ realizing he turned his back on the ones he loves, and he starts over and moves back to Lanford.  Career exploration is ideal to explore along with dating.

Bev: After a newfound artistic hobby leads to a lucrative turn in her life, so does an increased drinking habit.  Bev and Dan conquer their illness together and form a newfound bond.  Beverly continues to make her family miserable, in usual fashion.

Nancy, Leon and Scott: The three have kept the Diner running strong with Jackie.  They slowly reverted the Blue-Collar diner into an upscale and controversial gay hub in town, having survived the economic downfall with minimal effects.

The Kids: Andy, Jerry and Harris will take the coveted roles in their early 20's, battling the same issues the previous generations of the family did.

Sarah Chalke's New Role: Given Chalke was downgraded and sidelined repeatedly, give her a prominent, juicy role, mixing it up with the cast we call call Muse.  She is Dan's business colleague for web development.  Muse lands lucrative career opportunities for David and Roseanne.  She aids the diner in construction and design ideas.  She is Beverly's fellow artist.  She is the one adult who the younger adults listen to.  And most pertinent, Muse is the trashcan Darlene and Becky dump their hatred into.  She is the perfect daughter Dan and Roseanne never had.  And worst of all, she has more chemistry with David than either sister could muster!

These fictional brainstorms are just that.  Yet they demonstrate the rich plethora of history the show has to mine from for it's upcoming miniseries comedy.  Let's hope for a dose of gritty realism vs. the outlandish farce of the 9th season.  And most importantly, let's hope Roseanne 2.0, aka This is Roseanne, can generate the same, thunderous crass laughs it mined so well during its first run!

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