She’s a polarizing figure, but we’re still anxious to see the rebooted sitcom break new ground
Roseanne Barr knows how to keep tongues wagging. From her infamous bungling of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and my-way-or-the-highway tyranny on the set of her groundbreaking sitcom to her failed presidential bid and accusation that Ireland (yes, the whole darn country) is anti-Semitic, the self-proclaimed domestic goddess has been a controversial pop-culture mainstay for more than 30 years.
This month, the legendary comedienne will return with her original TV family and friends to ABC’s primetime lineup tonight. How will she make us laugh, side-eye, and ask WTF next? Who knows, but here are six things I’d like to see the series tackle in Season 10.
Gay Darlene. In the finale of Roseanne’s original run, it was revealed by newly widowed matriarch Roseanne that her daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert) was married to her sister Becky’s (Lecy Goranson) husband Mark (the late Glenn Quinn), not his brother David (Johnny Galecki), whom she had been with since Season 4. The latter storyline was explained as a fictional plot in a story that Roseanne had written about her life, which, as it turned out, encompassed the entire series. Nothing that we had watched over the past nine years was as it seemed. That fan-disappointing decision will be retconned in the reboot, leaving everything leading up to S9 of the original series as canon. Praise Jesus. In the reboot, however, Darlene and David will be separated, opening up the potential opportunity for her to date women, which seems appropriate since Sara Gilbert is a lesbian in a real life. Just don’t expect it to happen immediately since Darlene’s 9-year-old gender-nonconforming son Mark (Ames McNamara) will be the basis for any initial LGBT diversity storylines. Not complaining, though; representation is representation.
George Clooney cameo. Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) was known for her revolving door of one-night stands and sometimes boyfriends — and a very tumultuous but short-lived marriage to her baby daddy Fred (Michael O’Keeffe) — but none shared the kind of chemistry with her as first-season love interest, Booker, played by George Clooney. Of course, GC’s a big-shot Hollywood movie star now — and has been for the past 20 years — so it’s probably a long shot that he’ll make a guest appearance. On the other hand, the Oscar-nominated Laurie Metcalf is a star in her own right, and Friends landed Brad Pitt and Julie Roberts in its heyday, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
The return of Kathy Bowman. Roseanne and Dan Conner (John Goodman) dealt with their fair share of neighbors over the years — who could forget the elderly nudists? — but the most formidable was “needle-butt” Kathy Bowman (Meagen Fay), Roseanne’s arch-nemesis from the minute she and her husband Jerry moved next door to 714 Delaware St. It was a rivalry for the ages until Roseanne inadvertently helped burglars dressed as good Samaritans (one of whom looked like Bob Hope) rob Kathy’s house, which ultimately drove the snippy housewife back to her hometown of Chicago. Fay is still a fixture on television — she most recently guested on ABC’s Dr. Ken — and if the network knows what’s good for its loyal Roseanne lovers, she’ll at least make a pit stop in Lanford one more time.
All the grown-up babies. When we last left the Conners in 1997, Roseanne had baby Jerry Garcia, Jackie had baby Andy, and Darlene had just popped out baby Harris before the series finale. Baby Harris will be featured in the revival (now a teenager of 14 years old instead of the actual age of 21 she would be in real time) — as will her brother Mark and cousin Mary (Jayden Rey), daughter of D.J. Conner (Michael Fishman). As for Jerry Garcia and Andy, they’re still part of the continuity, according to Roseanne, but the characters will not appear in Season 10.
Dan’s boat. What ever happened to Dan’s boat? Some Roseanne-philes consider it a casualty of the writers’ room, just another abandoned plot point, while others seem to remember Dan’s mentally ill mother setting it on fire. Whatever the truth is — which is hard to discern from a show like Roseanne — I hope it makes a comeback. If they can resurrect Dan from the dead (it was revealed he died of a heart attack in the series finale), surely they can put a half-completed boat back up on cinderblocks.
Topical subject matter. One of the greatest legacies of Roseanne, and why it was a top 20 show for eight of its nine seasons (No. 1 overall in 1989), is that it never shied away from controversial subject matter. From first periods and teenage masturbation to gay marriage and race relations, Roseanne blazed a trail across the television landscape, the effects of which can still be seen in sitcoms today. You can expect more of the same from the reboot — Roseanne the comedienne is still as feisty as ever — as they tackle the Trump administration (Roseanne the character admits she voted for the kook in an early episode), gender-identity issues, for-hire surrogacy, and mixed-race families. Throw an episode about gun control in there and we’re halfway to an Emmy nom.