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“If what doesn’t kill us is making us stronger…”

April 30, 2017, 10:00 AM

So according to Deadline, there will be an eight-episode revival of the 1990s sitcom Roseanne.  From what I’ve read, most of the actors from the original series will reprise their roles.

Roseanne is probably the last sitcom that I would have imagined would do a revival.  Reason is that over the course of the final season, they more or less trashed the entire premise of the show as things went completely off the rails, as the Conners won $108 million in the lottery, turning them from working-class to fabulously wealthy overnight.  Then there was the ending of the final episode, which retconned much of the series with the revelation that Dan had died from his heart attack, Jackie was gay (and not Bev), Darlene married Mark and Becky married David, that the events of the final season were a fantasy, and that everything that we saw over the past nine seasons was actually a book written by a heretofore unknown person named Roseanne Conner.  So where do you go from there?

First of all, however, in exploring where this show might start, I’m inclined to dismiss speculation by Roseanne Barr from 2009 about what the characters might be up to.  From the article cited above:

On her website in 2009, Barr gave her detailed take on where each of the main characters from the show would be in a possible Roseanne revival: Roseanne and Jackie opening the first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford; Dan reappearing alive after faking his death; DJ being published; Mark dying in Iraq; David leaving Darlene for a woman half his age; Darlene coming out, meeting a woman and having a baby with her; Becky working at Walmart; Arnie befriending the governor of Illinois and remarrying Nancy; Bev selling a painting for $10,000; Jerry and the grandsons forming a boy band; and Bonnie being arrested for selling crack.

I’m willing to dismiss this because no article that I could find thus far was willing to go on record stating that this speculation on Barr’s part from eight years ago is what the revival would be based on.  I could think of a few different ways that a Roseanne revival could go, based on how much of the ninth season one would prefer to ignore.  Let’s admit: Roseanne jumped the shark, big time, as soon as the family won the lottery.  The original series should have ended right here:

The end of Darlene's wedding

This is the episode where Darlene got married.  The story should have ended with Darlene’s wedding.  It would have sewn up the Darlene/David love story, and ended the series on a high note.  Then after this, rather than Dan’s having a heart attack, the cast should have taken their final bows.  That would have been a far better ending to the series than the long monologue by Barr that we ended up getting a year later, where I was left thinking afterwards, “What in the hell did I just watch?”  Plus I’m still a bit annoyed about the fact that ABC showed shots of the cast taking final bows in the promos for the series finale, but the series finale contained no such scenes.

So, really, I could see three scenarios for a Roseanne revival, depending on how we want to treat the final season.

The first is that they do a new show based on the “real” Conner family that author Roseanne Conner based her stories on.  This takes the original series at face value as a completed work of fiction inside of another fictional universe where little is known about the characters.  In such a situation, Dan died from his heart attack (or, as speculated, faked his own death), Darlene and Mark had become a couple, Becky and David had become a couple, Jackie was gay, etc.  I think that this is probably the most interesting scenario, as we would learn exactly what Roseanne the writer changed about her family.  Thankfully, in this situation, the final season never existed, bringing the series back to its roots.  It also allows for a lot of artistic license, which could allow the new series to escape any conventions from the old series that the writers no longer wanted to follow.  It also allows for casting changes, since nothing says that the “real” versions of any of these characters, other than Roseanne Conner herself, since she appeared in the final episode, are what we were accustomed to.  That also allows the show to continue to have Mark Healy as a character, as continuing to have Mark would require recasting the role, since actor Glenn Quinn died from a heroin overdose in 2002.  However, I really don’t know if this would go over well with the public at large.  It would essentially be a new series based on an older one, rather than a direct continuation of the old show, and as such, might be too confusing for some viewers who, in their minds, are trying to connect the two series more directly, and can’t wrap their minds around the series finale’s premise that the entire series was a book.  Yes, the series finale went very deep with that final monologue.  However, that ending is still subject to a bit of discussion, and lack of understanding of the ramifications of that ending could tank the new series if people don’t understand it.

Then there’s the second scenario.  This takes the original series at face value, and omits the monologue that churned everything up in the series’ final moments.  As such, the last time we saw the Conners, they were all sitting around the kitchen table, eating Chinese food together.  Becky and Mark were expecting a child, Darlene and David’s baby, Harris, had just come home from the hospital after a premature birth, Leon and Scott were about to adopt a child, and in general, things were starting to look up for the family.  This situation would treat the entire lottery arc, and all of the ridiculousness that followed, as canon, and build on it following the passage of 20 years.  In that situation, the Conners’ lottery winnings would have finished paying out about a year prior to the start of the new show, and so depending on how well the Conners managed their wealth, they could be financially secure and set for life, or they could have squandered it all and be back to square one.  I would expect that they would find a way to hand-wave the lottery winnings away in such a case, such as through some failed real estate investment deals or something, in order to return the family to their original situation, and make them middle class again, possibly changed from their experience.  Most interestingly, it could present a Roseanne who, after the considerable amount of soul-searching that we saw in the final season, was much changed from those experiences, and had a new outlook on life now that she and Dan are in their sixties.  Similarly, we would find out how all of the various babies turned out, as Jackie’s son Andy would now be 23, Roseanne and Dan’s son Jerry Garcia would be 22, Darlene and David’s daughter Harris Conner Healy would be 21, and Becky and Mark’s unnamed child would be 19 or 20.  Then Crystal and Ed’s children, Little Ed and Angela, would be 26 and 25, respectively.  There could be many storylines about the kids and their own grown-up endeavors.  They would also have to figure out what to do with the character of Mark Healy, as Glenn Quinn, as mentioned earlier, is no longer around to play Mark.  The killed-in-Iraq thread, as speculated years ago, fits Mark’s character well enough, as I could see Mark joining the military out of a sense of patriotic duty following 9/11, being sent to Iraq, and losing his life in that conflict.

The final scenario that I could possibly see them going with is one that omits everything that happened after Dan and Roseanne reconciled following the large fight in the eighth season finale.  Thus the Conners never won the lottery, and they’re going into the revival with a clean slate, starting from more or less where the show should have ended in the first place.  That would mean that Dan’s marital infidelity never happened, Darlene and David’s baby wasn’t born prematurely and almost died, no fighting terrorists on a train, no remodeling, no turning ownership of the restaurant over to Leon and Nancy, and certainly no weird ending.  It would be a continuation of the series as we would prefer to remember it, and forgetting that the ninth season ever happened.  Many of the same issues as in the second scenario would need to be faced, but without being colored by the lottery experience.  However, I think that that this might be too confusing for audiences as well, since this omits an entire season of episodes, albeit ones that should never have been produced in the first place.

Of all of the different scenarios, I think that I would find the first one most interesting, but it might be too confusing for audiences.  The third scenario discards too much story as non-canon, which leaves the second scenario as the most likely to go to production, as it only dismisses part of one episode, thus preserving the continuity that we’re used to, bad final season and all.  And it might make for interesting television, as we see what the family has learned over the years.

And then as far as that ninth season goes, I think it explains quite well why most long-running sitcoms finish up at eight seasons.  Nine seems to just be too long, as Family Matters can also attest to, which became tired and stale after being on for so long.  That show was (mercifully) cancelled before starting a planned tenth season.  Likewise, The Drew Carey Show ran for nine seasons, which was one season too many, with that show’s having run out of ideas somewhere in the middle of the eighth season.

Then another question when it comes to a Roseanne revival is about who will play Becky.  Will it be original actress Lecy Goranson, or replacement actress Sarah Chalke?  Either way, I’m sure that they’ll make a few which-Becky-is-it jokes, especially if it ends up being Goranson.

So all in all, it ought to be pretty interesting to see how a Roseanne revival plays out.  All they have to do is get their set back from Mike & Molly, and then it’s off to the races, I suppose.

Categories: Television