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Roseanne wrapped up its first season on Tuesday night with an episode that strongly suggested there’s no point in doing a second season. Whatever novelty there was to this reboot has now become cowardly and repetitive. The situations could have been lifted from sitcoms from the 1950s. In the opening scene, the joke was that Roseanne is stuck on the toilet. Later, Darlene, working as a waitress in a casino, has to fend off lecherous male customers. In another scene, Dan’s friend Chuck brings a box of doughnuts to the Conners’ house — that was the joke, really: Doughnuts are inherently funny, apparently.
Remember when this new Roseanne premiered and we were all scandalized that Roseanne Conner was, like her creator, Roseanne Barr, a Trump supporter? Those were the days. Now it’s hard to even muster indignation when we’re asked, in the season finale, to feel sympathy for Dan when he hires so-called illegals to help him with a construction job. Roseanne is shown being offended that Dan is, in her phrase, “goin’ non-union,” yet no jokes are made about how Trump and his Republican Congress are whittling away at union rights: Surely Roseanne Conner knows her idol in the White House is a union buster.
Like the Roseanne take on opioids (Roseanne pops pills the family can’t afford to avoid getting surgery on her bum knee, medical care the family also cannot afford), the much-publicized politics of this show are a messy hash of half-formed ideas when they’re ideas at all. The big crisis of the finale was a heavy rainstorm that flooded the Conners’ basement. Dan laments that he has “20 grand in water damage” and “three extra mouths to feed” with Darlene and her kids moving in, and, he wails, “I’m old, I’m tired, and I’m not sure how much longer I can hold on!” Yet what do he and Roseanne celebrate? That Trump declares the storm a “state of emergency” (joke from Darlene: “The president spelled Illinois wrong in his tweet, but it still counts”), and that, therefore, “FEMA will give us some money to repair the basement!” (Drain the swamp, indeed.) No one — not even Jackie, the show’s supposed liberal — points out that the president and the current Congress that Roseanne Barr/Conner loves so much are exactly the kind that want to do away with the governmental aid and protections such as FEMA provides.
If Roseanne had stuck to its guns from the first episode onward and really committed to being the pro-Trump sitcom it promoted itself as being, it would have been a lot more interesting to watch, since of necessity it would have ended up showing us that the working-class people who voted for Trump are the ones getting the most screwed by their hero: That’s the plot-generating dilemma Roseanne will never utilize. As it is, the ratings success has made the show not politically conservative but artistically conservative — reluctant to offend its big, broad, Middle American audience. Who needs that? Good luck making this thing watchable next fall.
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