New York (AFP) – Hit working-class sitcom “Roseanne” returned to US television screens Tuesday after a two-decade hiatus, winning generally positive reviews in a sharply polarized America with a title character who is now a pill-popping, Trump-voting grandma.
ABC aired the first two episodes of the award-winning show’s 10th season — back for the first time in 21 years with actress Roseanne Barr in fine fettle as the eponymous blue-collar matriarch of the Conner clan.
Roseanne and husband Dan, played by John Goodman, are getting on in years, and are on a long roster of medication, which they share to save on cost.
“If you’re not happy, I have no chance of being happy,” quips Dan, handing the anti-depressants to Roseanne.
Daughter Darlene is back at home as an unemployed, single mom of a gender-fluid son and a bratty teenage girl. Son DJ is home from Syria, but with a wife still serving in the military overseas.
Daughter Becky, 43, is a widowed restaurant worker wanting to become a surrogate mom in exchange for $50,000, desperate to pay off credit cards, buy a car and put down a deposit on a home.
But it’s the politics that’s grabbed the press attention.
Depictions of working-class life are rare on US television, and Hollywood has largely ignored the half of the country that voted for Donald Trump.
Roseanne’s sister Jackie (multiple Emmy winner Laurie Metcalf) sports a “Nasty Woman” T-shirt and pink pussy hat of the type worn at women’s marches against the Republican president’s administration.
“What’s up, deplorable?” she greets a feuding Roseanne, adopting Hillary Clinton’s now infamous epithet for Trump voters.
The sisters’ bickering covers the economy, the 2016 election and health care, but Roseanne is portrayed as neither a racist or a bigot — stereotypes of Trump voters often seen in the media.
She treasures her black grandchild and defends gender-fluid Mark on his first day at his new school, telling his classmates her grandson’s on his way to becoming a famous fashion designer.
“This just feels like me. I like colors that pop,” Mark tells her of his penchant for girls’ clothes, before she grabs him in a bear hug.
– ‘Fresh relevance’ –
“It’s feisty and funny and a little sad. And like that old couch you can’t throw out, it may just have a good year or two left in it,” read a review in The New York Times.
The Washington Post called it an “engaging return to life” for the sitcom, whose first run went from 1988-1997, and which now is “sporting a fresh layer of relevance.”
“They’re older and unhappier and, to a character, well acquainted with the demise of the American Dream,” the newspaper said.
“If you’re a fan of the original Roseanne… this is as good as it’s going to get,” concluded The Hollywood Reporter.
Barr ran for president with the Green Party and the Peace and Freedom Party in 2012, and voted for Barack Obama before becoming a vocal Trump supporter, saying she wanted him to “shake up” the status quo.
“I’ve always tried to have it be a true reflection of the society we live in,” the 65-year-old said of the show in January.
“I feel like half the people voted for Trump and half didn’t, so it’s just realistic.”
Goodman, who has enjoyed arguably the most high-profile career of all the cast members with regular film roles, has perhaps the most triumphant return — his character was killed off in the original series, a death now explained away as fantasy.
“For me, it was easy as pie, like falling out of bed, putting on an old shoe,” he said.
The show quickly rocketed to the top of Twitter’s trending list, with a hashtag featuring the family’s well-worn couch.