TV Re­view

Roseanne re­booted doesn’t ex­plain why a badass fem­i­nist would vote Trump.

New Zealand Listener - - CON­TENTS - Diana Wich­tel

Those who for­get the past are con­demned to watch re­boots of 90s tele­vi­sion shows. The X-Files, Twin Peaks … Now, Roseanne go­ing for gold when it comes to nos­tal­gia and, depend­ing on your tol­er­ance for Trump-era Roseanne Barr, a range of less agree­able emo­tions. Still, it will fill in the time un­til the ro­bots take over or, as ­Roseanne’s stil­l­lib­eral sis­ter Jackie fears, the pres­i­dent who shall not be named blows up the world.

Same old kitchen ta­ble, same old couch, same chicken shirt. Also un­touched by time are the tropes of the clas­sic Amer­i­can sit­com, as rit­u­alised as kabuki the­atre. Ev­ery­one still lurches into shot to shout one-lin­ers at each other, and the un­der­ly­ing fam­ily de­vo­tion is ex­pressed in ex­tended bouts of ma­ni­a­cal laugh­ter. View­ers long­ing to be­come ­reac­quainted with the ton­sils of Roseanne when she’s in full roar have had their dreams ful­filled be­fore the end of the open­ing ti­tles.

Same old cast. The orig­i­nal show’s fi­nal sea­son, in which the Con­ners won the lot­tery and the show stopped mak­ing any sense, ren­dered a re­union prob­lem­atic. In the fi­nale, it turned out the good for­tune was just a story Roseanne was writ­ing to deal with her grief at the death from a heart at­tack of Dan. Or some­thing.

Barr didn’t de­serve the sex­ism the sto­ry­line copped from some com­men­ta­tors – a blue-col­lar “do­mes­tic god­dess” isn’t al­lowed to be­come a fa­mous writer, ap­par­ently – but the show jumped a whole school of sharks and Dan was dead.

Never mind. On Planet Sit­com, the de­ceased can be re­booted like some once-au­da­cious tele­vi­sion com­edy. “Dan!” shrieks Roseanne in the open­ing scene. “I thought you were dead!”

Roseanne was ground­break­ing: it starred a gen­er­ously pro­por­tioned, loud­mouth badass who wasn’t male, and sto­ry­lines in­cluded abor­tion, racism, PMS and men­tal ill­ness. The re­boot has also proved con­tro­ver­sial. Roseanne is now a Trump sup­porter. There are jokes about health­care. “Was­sup, de­plorable?” says her sis­ter Jackie, wear­ing a pussy hat and “Nasty Woman” T-shirt. Roseanne calls her “snowflake” and de­clares, “Aunt Jackie thinks every girl should grow up and be pres­i­dent – even if they’re a liar, liar, pantsuit on fire.” Fair enough. The char­ac­ter had a his­tory of poor life choices.

But there’s the art vs the artist dilemma: can you ap­pre­ci­ate the art while de­plor­ing the artist? Barr has been in bother for tweet­ing mad Trumpfriendly con­spir­acy the­o­ries and Fox News talk­ing points. Her so­cial-me­dia pres­ence is not for the faint-hearted. Trump rang to con­grat­u­late her on the show’s pre­miere, though the tire­some con­ser­va­tive com­men­ta­tor Ben Shapiro railed that the re­boot has ad­hered to its lib­eral ori­gins, cit­ing the sto­ry­line in­volv­ing the Con­ners’ lit­tle grand­son, Mark, who prefers girls’ clothes. Roseanne and Dan are kind of okay with that. The out­rage.

It’s still a sit­com. Every­one can be at each other’s throats only to hug and make up at the end of the com­mer­cial half hour. I’ll keep watch­ing, for the won­der­ful Lau­rie Met­calf and a be­mused-look­ing John Good­man. But there’s lit­tle in­sight into why a for­merly left-wing, fem­i­nist, work­ing-class woman such as Roseanne Con­ner might vote for Trump. Life hadn’t turned out as she’d hoped. Where was her Amer­i­can dream? “He said he’d shake things up,” she says vaguely. Drain the swamp, build the wall, what­ever. Do some­thing.

It’s eas­ier to see why Barr – rich, fa­mous, never quite Hol­ly­wood and pos­si­bly bored – might see Trump as a role model. As Jimmy Kim­mel pointed out to her on his talk show, “You were kind of the orig­i­nal crazy tweeter.”

In 2012, when a lamentably un­qual­i­fied buf­foon of a tele­vi­sion star do­ing such a thing was more of a nov­elty, she ran for pres­i­dent. As Kim­mel told her through slightly grit­ted teeth, “You’re ex­press­ing your views, as crazy as they may be.” In these ab­surd times, we should be grate­ful she’s only mak­ing an­other sit­com. ROSEANNE, Three, Thurs­day, 7.30pm.

On Planet Sit­com, the de­ceased can be re­booted like some on­ceau­da­cious tele­vi­sion com­edy.

Roseanne: same old couch, same old cast, still con­tro­ver­sial.

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