The Canberra Times: A Rose by any other name: Why the Roseanne reboot hits its mark

Sometimes when the marketing noise gets too loud, it’s hard to see the television show for the headlines. And sometimes, when the star of the show is making more noise than the show itself, it’s hard to get a grip on what you’re watching and what you’re hearing.

In Roseanne (Ten, from April 31) you get it all, both barrels, both ears and in surround sound. The original show, a comedy for the liberal underclass, has been reborn as a modern conservative comedy for the deplorable but defiant, its central character, once an open-minded working class wife and mother, now reborn as a Trump-voting voice for the forgotten.

At the heart of Roseanne is a strange conflation of actress and character, where many of these newly acquired character traits in the television Roseanne Conner are borrowed from her real-life counterpart Roseanne Barr. The network is asking you to keep the two separate, but liberal commentators are saying you can’t. Finding focus with all that noise is tough.

So, let’s drill down to the centre of the piece. This is a good reboot, maybe even a great reboot. It tells a few convenient fibs in both story (Dan didn’t really die) and tone (the original series was far more liberal) to get away with its “Rosie voted Trump” launch footing, but politics aside, those narrative cheats are forgivable.

Whatever you think of Barr as a conservative voter, she’s a bloody great comedian, and in Roseanne– the original series – she created a working class comedy masterpiece which is the equal of only a handful of shows in TV history. All In the Family is surely one. Maude might be another. As a comedy? It was brilliant. As a female-led comedy? Genuinely stunning.

And try as you might to shut the real-world narrative out of the TV one, you can’t really, for both good and bad reasons. Perhaps the most appealing thing about the reboot is that it brings back the whole cast, with their mixed bag of acting chops and bumpy, out-of-practice rhythms.

A true Hollywood reboot would be all polish and big smiles. This is choppy, but real, and nicely so.

The strength of the series is that it sets out to say something. It is maybe no surprise that of all the reboots, revivals and remakes peppering the television schedule (and it’s a far less precise science that it might seem at first glance) the two which have worked are Will & Grace and Roseanne.

Though they reflect opposing views of American social uncertainty – one is the voice of liberal, big city America, the other of working class, flyover-state America – both come to the politico-social debate with something to say about it. Ambivalence, at least for now, won’t get you anywhere.

But even this brilliant rebooted Roseanne wrestles with itself. Are we really going to buy the idea that Roseanne is an old-fashioned, bum-smacking grandparent who clashes with her liberal daughter over soft parenting? That rings a little false against the original series, which delved powerfully into Roseanne and Jackie’s struggle with their own abusive father. (And, in one episode, Roseanne’s promise never to strike her kids).

Try as she might like to mock safe spaces, it is no small irony that Roseanne – the show – is just that. For the news-cycle weary television viewer it’s a comfortable blanket of Barr’s darkly observational comedy, of John Goodman’s squishy reliability and of Laurie Metcalf’s off-the-dial absurdity.

Modern television too often celebrates the ordinary, and makes celebrities out of the talentless and the noisy. Swimming in a program schedule like that, it’s no surprise that we’re reaching for the classics.

Michael Idato

Article Source: