On March 27th, ABC changed television again with its premiere of the Roseanne reboot. Filled with laughs and touching upon relevant cultural topics, the show opened to 18 million viewers, knocking the Big Bang theory and Young Sheldon out of their respective two spots as number one show and comedy. Fans of the show (myself included) watched not only to laugh their cares away but also to see exactly what the Connor clan has been up to over the past twenty- five years. The Connors were the epitome of the working class family of the eighties and nineties and this reboot is no exception. Roseanne, now working as an Uber driver and Dan still taking contracts for drywall jobs still struggle to make ends meet, as Darlene tells David in one episode that they made “a decorating choice called poverty” after he comments her room is exactly the same way it was after all these years.
But their decorating choice isn’t the only thing that makes Roseanne both a comedy and tragedy. As I have tuned into my nostalgic side and re-watched the original Roseanne episodes, one of the pervasive themes of the show was that Dan and Roseanne wanted better for their children than they had. Married at eighteen, Dan and Roseanne struggled to put food on the table and the electricity going (although in one episode in an earlier season, they couldn’t quite make that happen.) The original Becky (played by Lecy Goranson) is depicted as a struggling widow waiting tables at an Italian restaurant (that looks eerily similar to the same place Roseanne and Jackie owned their restaurant the Lanford Lunch Box for several seasons.) In the first episode, Becky meets a woman (played by second Becky Sarah Chalke) who wants Becky to have her baby in exchange for $50,000, of which she eagerly accepts. When Dan and Roseanne refuse, Becky retorts that she doesn’t want to have to worry about money anymore and if she has this baby she can be worry free for quite some time. She has never moved on from Mark’s death (real life actor Glenn Quinn died in 2002) and she struggles to pay her rent and move on with her life, which was the same way we left her in 1998. Married at sixteen, Becky soon regrets that decision as she learns Darlene is going to college and has turned down a copywriting job making $30,000 a year, more than any Connor has ever made in his/her life. When Becky lies about her age in the reboot, she quickly learns she has a slim to no chance of ever having a child, something she at one point put on hold to go to school. No children to speak of, a dead end job and barely making ends meet seems reminiscent of the same life she mocked her parents for in earlier seasons.
Similarly, Darlene has come home to take care of ailing Roseanne and Dan, which we quickly find out is a lie. Roseanne reveals that Darlene has lost her job, has no money and has moved back home from Chicago because she has no place to live and has a pending divorce from David looming over her head. Roseanne replies that Darlene is “her little loser” as she cries from embarrassment (a characteristic un common for Darlene’s previously quick witted, resilient character.) Darlene, who had shown promise despite being married to David after getting pregnant with Harris at nineteen, now proves yet again the struggle gene is genetic.
The only bright spot is previously weird kid DJ (played Michael Freshman). He, and his wife have both served in the military and have one daughter together (who ironically has little screen time in the first five episodes.) The same brother whom Becky and Darlene mocked for years as being someone who wouldn’t amount to anything because of his quirks has become the bright spot in the Connor family.
As much as I have laughed at the poignant and humorous jokes Roseanne provides, I can’t help but shed a tear or two. In a similar vein as the Gilmore girls reboot where the last four words Rory utters to her mom (“Mom, I’m pregnant!”) reveals in an instant all the fears Lorelai had that her daughter would turn out like her has come true, turning Rory into yet another statistic. The Connors are not different, its children living out the same concerns Dan and Roseanne voiced over all those years.
As Dan said, “The classics really do hold up.” While this is true, it is also true that
history has indeed repeated itself for the Connor clan.
MICHELLE S. LAZUREK is an award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife and mother. Winner of the Golden Scroll Children's Book of the Year, the Enduring Light Silver Medal and the Maxwell Award, she is a member of the Christian Author's Network and the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She is also an associate literary agent with Wordwise Media Services. For more information, please visit her website at michellelazurek.com.