Tuesday night’s two-episode revival of Roseanne launched with the same emotional flare that made the original Conner family working-class comedy a 90s cult classic, updated for the millennial age and set in the Trump era.
After a 20-year hiatus, the magnanimous matriarch Roseanne Barr is reunited with her on-screen husband Dan (John Goodman) and the pair face new family challenges — Roseanne’s unemployed daughter Darlene (Sara Gilbert) has moved in with her two children, Becky, (Alicia Goranson) widowed, struggles to become a surrogate, and Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) clashes with Roseanne over the election of Donald Trump.
One emotional moment manufactures a rare TV siting: a flyover state denizen offering an honest and raw, reason-based rationale for supporting Trump.
“He talked about jobs, Jackie!” Roseanne says to her “Nasty Woman” T-shirt-clad sister, who vocally supported Hillary Clinton but walked into the booth and voted for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. “He said he’d shake things up! I mean, this might come as a complete shock to you, but we almost lost our house, the way things are going.”
Moments later, just before the family eats dinner, Roseanne says a prayer — she asks Jackie, “Would you like to take a knee?” — in which she thanks God for her son D.J.’s (Michael Fishman) safe return home from his military service in Syria and “most of all Lord, thank you, for making America great again.”
Though the reboot is not steeped in political party politics, Roseanne admits, to the New York Times, that she wanted “to have that dialogue about families torn apart by the election and their political differences of opinion and how we handle it. I thought that this was an important thing to say at this time.”
Roseanne, Barr told the Times, is about “How families are still struggling and what they do about it.”
“There’s an arc in this season, and it’s the closest I’ve been to doing what I want to do,” the 65-year-old said. “It’s about everything in our country. It’s about opioids and health care. How we deal with whole new issues that we didn’t even have before, like gender-fluid kids. How working class people — how and why they elected Trump.”
“It’s an accurate portrayal of these people and people like them,” Roseanne said of Trump voters. “In terms of what they think, and how they feel when they are the ones who send their kids over to fight. We’ve been in wars for a long, long time, which everybody seems to forget — but working class people don’t forget it because their kids are in it.”
The second episode, “Dress to Impress,” follows Darlene’s gender fluid son Mark, who enjoys wearing girls clothing.
The episode is dominated by familiar fare: school bullies, the pain of unfulfilled like goals, and a parent’s penchant for fixing their children’s (or grandchildren’s) problems.
The cast (and the couch) is the same as the original award-winning show but the sharp punchlines still land, and family values remain real.
Roseanne airs on ABC.
Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson