Behind The Scenes With TV’s Most Relatable Family: Roseanne

Television had rather idealistic views of the modern American family throughout the ’80s—that is until Roseanne came on the air. For the better part of the late ’80s and ’90s, Roseanne represented the average, working-class family on television in some of the funniest ways possible. Then in 2018, the show returned to TV after being off the air for 20 years. But, things didn’t go as planned. Keep reading to see what happened.

A Game Changer

Roseanne Barr headed a self-titled family sitcom from the late ’80s into the ’90s. It was a bit of a game-changer since it was one of the first American families to be on prime time TV that featured a blue-collar, working class family.

What Doesn’t Kill Us Makes Us Stronger

Many sitcoms at the time focused on more affluent families—the type of family you wished you had, not the one you actually had. The Conners were the latter kind; they were a more authentic family who had their struggles, challenges, and conflicts. They made it work with limited money—something the majority of real families can relate to.

Not many family sitcoms followed this path and because of that, it made Roseanne a bit more special. And that is where the majority of the fanbase stemmed from—families that related to the lives of the Conners.

We’re Gonna Last Longer

Roseanne ran on ABC for eight seasons, from 1988-1997, with 222 episodes. The finale attracted over 16 million viewers. It was the most-watched show in the U.S. during its second season and was always in the top five of the Nielsen ratings during its first six seasons…So they were clearly doing something America liked!

The fact that they portrayed a more relatable family rather than one that was perfect in every aspect was a huge reason the sitcom attracted so many fans—both sides can find that interesting! Not to mention it was absolutely hilarious.

We Will Make It Out Better Than Okay

The Conners live in Lanford, Illinois, which is a fictional town. Based on other locations mentioned in the show which are real, it is speculated that Lanford is a small suburb of Chicago. The town is like many towns which have a mix of economic backgrounds. The Conners were self-described “white trash.”

The Connors financial situation and hard work ethic made them authentic and likable, which millions of fans could relate to. How many families do you know that call them selves white trash and are okay with it? There are way more families that are worse off than doing well.

Battle Of The Becky’s

Daughter Becky (played by two different actresses at different times) is a smart overachiever. She begins going to college but then marries young. The part is played first by Lecy Goranson and later by Sarah Chalke. The fact that Becky was played by two people on and off was an ongoing joke on the set.

The part was recast with Chalke, who played the role for seasons six and seven. Season eight was split between the two girls, and by season nine Chalke was back to being Becky. Goranson studied acting before Roseanne, and after continued on to some small roles on shows such as Law & Order, Fringe, and Sex & The City, and was recently on Inside Amy Schumer in 2016.

Lecy Goranson Puts Brains Over Money

Goranson was the original Becky for the first five seasons. Her role on Roseanne was one of her first acting jobs. She left the show to pursue an education, and while the team tried to continue working with her at first, it became too difficult, Becky was written to have eloped with her boyfriend Mark.

A majority of the time, furthering your education is always the best choice. You can never be over educated and you know the age old saying about how knowledge is power so her choice to leave the show for an education is one you cannot be mad at her for.

Sarah Chalke Was A Solid Stand-In

Sarah Chalke is a Canadian actress with a lengthy career for someone born only in 1976. After her stint on Roseann, she went on to the shows Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother. Roseanne would make cracks to her like “where have you been,” and “aren’t you glad you’re here this week,” and during the Halloween episode in season eight Chalke made a cameo appearance as a neighbor trick or treating.

It must have been awkward at first when she was first starting and everyone had to get used to her. The jokes must have been a way to alleviate the tension in the air.

Roseanne The Domestic Goddess

Roseanne runs the family. She is sarcastic, quick-witted, intelligent and works very hard at raising her kids right as well as trying to do the “right thing.” She married young, gave up a lot of her own dreams and near the end of the show after most of the kids are grown, she returns to her first love of writing.

With Roseanne being the head honcho and a woman, this also throws a little extra twist in the series. As we are usually accustomed to the patriarch being the main character and the one in charge, not the matriarch.

Roseanne Returns for Eight Episodes in 2018

Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic

20 years after its first release, Roseanne will once again air all new episodes on ABC. Fans can look forward to watching all of the original main cast members return to play their roles, beginning in 2018. Few details have been revealed, but at 64 years old, Roseanne Barr is as excited as ever to reunite with her TV family back on the silver screen. When asked before if he would rejoin the cast if the opportunity to revive the TV series appeared, John Goodman said, “Oh, hell yeah. If we could get everybody together.”

Roseanne’s Controversial Comment Leads to Cancellation

Vera Anderson/WireImage
Vera Anderson/WireImage

The premiere of the Roseanne revival received massive ratings for ABC, and the network went ahead and approved another season to follow. Everything was looking great for the revived TV series until a comment that Roseanne made on Twitter changed everything.

“Muslim brotherhood & planet of the apes had a baby=vj” Roseanne Barr commented in a thread on Twitter, referencing Valeria Jarrett, a former advisor to President Obama. The comment quickly caught the attention of ABC, who in return, cancelled the show. ABC president Channing Dungey responded: “Roseanne’s Twitter statement is abhorrent, repugnant and inconsistent with our values, and we have decided to cancel her show.”

Roseanne Gets A Fake Last Name

Roseanne Conner is played by Roseanne Barr. She received the role in which the show was developed around because of her performance on “The Tonight Show.” They liked her persona and felt she had the right “in-your-face” type of voice for this character they had imagined. The show is based around Roseanne as the matriarch.

She sure did have a special type of energy about her that would be hard to find in someone else without a template. There are just some actors and actresses who played a role like no one else could have.

Dan The Everyman

Dan is an “everyman,” and he is generally second in command. He loves food, beer, sports and working with his hands. Dan has a love for motorcycles and opens a bike shop at one point during the show. He has a poor relationship with his own family and his mother is in the looney bin. But she is not “out scaring people on the street” like Roseanne’s mom.

Dan is just your regular guy aside from the fact that he is second in command. You usually see his type being the leader but Roseanne took that role gladly.

Goodman Was The First And Only Person To Audition For Dan

John Goodman plays Dan. Goodman is most well-known for the show Roseanne in the early part of his career. After the show ended, Goodman went on to many great roles in films including voicing characters in The Princess and the Frog, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Monsters Inc. Goodman originally set out to play football but an injury kept him from actualizing that dream. But because he never made it with football, you can say that was the best thing to never happen to him because he would not have been the actor that he became.

Crazy Aunt Jackie

Jackie is Roseanne’s sister. She is a bit neurotic, but overall a good aunt. She and Roseanne have a very close relationship. She has numerous ideas of careers she wants to take part in…she works in a factory, then as a cop for a little bit, and eventually joins Roseanne with the Loose Meat sandwich idea. Jackie is full of unstable ideas and poor choices in men.

She sounds like that one friend we all have. The one that we always have to give advice to because they are always up to something new.

Metcalf Had An Expansive Career

Laurie Metcalf played Carolyn Bigsby on Desperate Housewives and later Mary Cooper, Sheldon’s mother, on The Big Bang Theory. She is a three-time Emmy winner and has also won stage acting awards. Metcalf never thought acting would be a serious option for her. Even though it wasn’t a childhood dream, she became hooked on acting in the theater in high school. She never thought she would get regular work, as is the case for many actors. She was as lucky as she is talented. She made the most of her talent and the chances given to her.

Darlene Is A Classic Tomboy

Darlene is sarcastic, witty, smart, and more of a tomboy. Very opposite of the girlie-girl that is Becky. She is her mother’s daughter and has worked very hard to craft her particular brand of humor, as she tells Winnie the Pooh in the Disney World episode.

She and Lecy Goranson had a similar dilemma when it came to going to school. However, the importance of Darlene was far greater so producers went the extra mile to ensure that she stayed on the show and still allowed her to continue her studies at Yale.

Sara Gilbert Wrote An Episode For Season Four

Sara Gilbert played Darlene; she currently stars as a guest on The Big Bang Theory as Leslie Winkle with her former love interest from Roseanne (David) and Laurie Metcalf. She is also currently a host on the daytime talk show, The Talk.

We told you how important she was to the show. She even wrote an episode. Producers would work overtime with story-lines and schedules and even shot some of her scenes at a soundstage in New York. She was a crucial element to the cast! Every show would be lucky to have someone like her.

David Healy Is Part Of The Family

David Healy is a passive-aggressive, wannabe renaissance type of guy. He dates—and eventually marries—Darlene in the show (though in the end it is said to be Becky he actually married). And he is the younger brother of Becky’s boyfriend Mark.

TV shows always have the offhand character who plays one of the younger siblings partners. You can always count on them to make random appearances and say those one-liners that might get you to laugh but also makes you like them a little more than usual. The only thing that is confusing is who is he really married to?

Johnny Galecki Becomes More Famous For Being A Nerd

Johnny Galecki went on to star in The Big Bang Theory as Dr. Leonard Hofstadter. Before Roseanne, he acted in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. His first acting job was on a mini-series called Murder Ordained where he also starred with John Goodman. Galecki has consistently been involved with many films on varying levels.

His role in The Big Bang Theory is arguably his biggest role to date so one can assume that if it weren’t for Roseanne, he might not have made it to that top spot. Never forget where you started.

DJ Is Everyone’s Little Brother

The youngest of the Conner kids, until season seven when they have the surprise baby, is DJ. DJ is a little bit of a weirdo, peeping on his sisters and not doing well in school. But otherwise is harmless and a bit naïve. DJ has several story lines that involve growing up.

At least he isn’t like the little kids from the animated TV shows that never get to grow up. For example, Maggie from The Simpsons and Stewie from Family Guy. Some shows lose their luster when the kid grows up but Roseanne weathered the storm.

Roseanne Fought For Fishman To Play DJ

DJ is played by Michael Fishman. He has done some acting and worked in theatre after Roseanne. The show meant a lot to him, like many people involved in theatrical work. He grew up on the set and the cast and crew became a second family.

For most, this is a common happening. When you are with a certain group of people for an extended period of time, it is just human nature for you to connect with them in some sort of fashion. Bonds are going to be made whether you like it or not.

A Bad Boy Persona

Mark Healy is Becky’s boyfriend and later husband. He is a hard worker, possibly, but he isn’t very bright. He has issues with jealousy, even with Goofy and Dopey when they go to Disney. Mark is the opposite of his brother David, much like how Becky and Darlene are opposites.

Many shows always have the girl who goes for the guy who is below her standards but he has the good looks that make up for the lack of intellect. You can always count on that dynamic when watching a family sitcom.

Glenn Quinn Died In 2002 From A Drug Overdose

Glenn Quinn was on Roseanne for seven years but died only five years after the show ended. He was pronounced dead from an overdose.

Before that, he had a decent television career. Quinn is an Irish actor born in Dublin but spent part of his youth visiting family in the U.S. Despite only having some small roles over the years, the fact that he played Mark with an American accent is suddenly more impressive. He also was on Angel and they wrote his character Doyle as someone who was Irish so he could speak in his native accent.

A Sudden Surprise

Jerry is the Conner’s fourth child and the surprise baby born on the Halloween episode of season eight. Dan and Roseanne, now in their 40s, decide to name the baby for the Grateful Dead front man Jerry Garcia after Roseanne’s trippy birthing experience. Roseanne Barr was pregnant at the time.

Since she was really pregnant during this time, it always makes more sense to write in a new child than trying to cover the pregnancy or waiting for the pregnancy to end so that you can resume recording. Little DJ wasn’t the littlest anymore.

Guest Stars Galore

There were several regulars on the show Roseanne such as Dan’s poker buddies, Roseanne’s mother, and close friends. There were also special appearances of Roseanne and Jackie’s mother Beverly, played by Estelle Parsons, Sandra Bernhard as a friend, and Martin Mull as her boss and later a partner in the business.

Roseanne even had several star-studded husbands in real life that would make appearances One of them being a man by the name of Tom Arnold, have you heard of him? He was a writer, producer and star during the time he was married to Roseanne.

Call Him “Aunt Leon”

Martin Mull’s character Leon begins to appear in season three through to the end of the show and is in about 43 episodes. He is a bit OCD, is pretty by-the-books and wants to please all his customers, which really annoys Roseanne. Leon is also gay and his fiancé, Scott, is played by Fred Willard. Roseanne is their wedding planner in the episode called “December Bride.” Mull is best known for his portrayal as Colonel Mustard from the film Clue. Adding a gay character and marriage was also something not every show was doing back then.

Tom Arnold Or Arnie Thomas?

Arnold was a writer on the show, and guest for a few episodes as Dan’s friend Arnie Thomas. They even pull off the best Halloween prank and pretend to be in bed together. Roseanne and Tom met on the show, later married, and then divorced in a Hollywood minute.

Like we said, Roseanne had a slew of husbands that were worthy of a guest star and Arnold was just one of them or the middle one. After him came Ben Thomas. Ben only appeared in two episodes at the end of series. Roseanne was pulling in viewers and men!

A Stash From The Past

This is one of the most popular episodes of Roseanne (and ranked #21 by TV guide as one of the greatest TV episodes of all time). In season six, the Conners find a bag of weed in one of the kid’s bedrooms. At first, they are mad but then realize it was theirs from their youth. So, of course, they smoke it and hilarity ensues. “Is this the sink, am I shrinking?” are just a few of the hilarious lines from the episode. “Look at me I’ve got nothing. No boyfriend, no meaningful job, no husband, no family, just me and my ganja.”

Halloween Is The Conner’s Favorite Holiday

Another popular episode is from season two, episode seven — “Boo!” This the first of many Halloween-themed episodes to come over the years. The Conners love Halloween. In this episode, Roseanne and Dan try to scare and out-spook each other. They eventually join forces and make a haunted house for the neighborhood to enjoy.

Not the happiest of holidays (except maybe for kids) but it fits the mold for the family. They aren’t the cookie-cutter family doing well, living fancy who has a big and magical Christmas. They are the family that will scare you when it is admissible to scare you.

I Come From Six Feet Under With a Dead Guy on My Knee

Halloween episodes continue to be some of the most popular of the series. Here Dan & Roseanne are dead dummies. There is a total of seven Halloween-themed episodes. The Halloween theme was a lot of fun for both fans and the cast with the endless pranks. You can purchase all seven episodes on a DVD set called Roseanne Halloween Edition.

These episodes were their niche or go-to whenever they felt they wanted to make a surefire good episode for the season. You could always count on the Halloween episode to be a great one to tune-in to watch.

Brain-Dead Poets Society

In this episode, Darlene is asked to read her poem for the school at a function called Culture Night. She is upset about doing it, and doesn’t want to be made fun of for it. But Roseanne is thrilled she has been invited. The poem was titled “To Whom It May Concern,” and it was full of Darlene’s wit but also touched upon her insecurities of being a tomboy. Even in real life, reading poetry can make one feel some type of way. And a parent is always going to be proud about what their child creates.

You Need To Cut It!

You remember those days when you wanted to try something new with your hair but your parents wouldn’t let you do it? Well, the same thing happened with Lecy Goranson but instead of her parents saying no, it was the producers of the show. There was a new hair trend going around in the ’90s and all she wanted to do was be apart of it.

When Roseanne found out they wouldn’t let her cut her hair, she became furious. She then proceeded to take a pair of scissors to cut off some of Goranson’s hair. That way, it was forced for her to get a haircut the way she liked.

Disney World War

The Conners come into some money and decide to go to “The Happiest Place on Earth.” This two-part episode, filmed mostly in the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, made viewers extremely nostalgic—not just for the show, but for Disney World. The first part is the family planning the trip and flying there. But the highlight is Darlene hugging Pooh, where the magic of the kingdom melts her sarcastic heart. “I am hugging Winnie the Pooh!” It’s great when you get to see a character who doesn’t show much emotion release some happy emotions! Hugging Pooh is the pinnacle of being happy.

Some Jerk With A Camera

“Some Jerk with a Camera” mocks the show with this YouTube episode from July 2015 about the Conners adventures in Disney (almost 20 years later). Maybe the show did want a free trip to Disney. It was filmed during a slow period, possibly in January, based on the jackets and clothing seen.

Mocking a great show can get you some publicity whether it be good or bad. In this case, it was mostly mixed reviews but more fell on the positive side. It was just something that people could watch that provided entertainment and a good laugh.

It Was All A Story Roseanne Wrote

In the end, Roseanne concluded with a twist. The entire final season was a story Roseanne was writing. Late in season eight, Dan has a heart attack and he survives on the show, we believe. But sadly, in the end, we find out he did not live and Roseanne wrote everything that happened after as a dream or wish.

That’s a plot twist that people were not expecting. It caught many by surprise and why wouldn’t it? It probably gave people more trust issues when watching a TV show because you never know if it is real or not now, thanks to Roseanne.

Before He Was Chief!

Does Seattle Grace Hospital ring any bells? Well, this man right here, James Pickens Jr., went on to become the chief of that same fictional hospital as he starred in the hit series Grey’s Anatomy. But prior to that, he played a role on Roseanne as one of Dan’s friends.

He was in a total of 19 episodes through a span of six years in the ’90s. His first appearance was in the third season for the Halloween themed episode. He went on and did other shows after Roseanne but clearly, his most famous role after was as Chief Webber.

Catch Roseanne Anytime

Roseanne went into syndication in 1996 and ran on TBS until 2004. It was also picked up by Nick at Nite, TV Land and Oxygen at various times until about 2010. Currently, Roseanne can be watched on We TV, LOGO and CMT as well as Netflix. So there is no shortage on how to get your fix of Roseanne. You can keep a marathon going if you watch it through Netflix. Get your popcorn or any type of snacks ready and just go on a binge of the Halloween episodes. You’re sure to have a good night.

Multiple Nominations

Roseanne won its fair share of awards. The team won about 50 different awards over the years including numerous Golden Globes, Emmys, Screen Actors Guild Awards, one Peabody and People’s Choice Awards. Roseanne Barr has won four times at the Kids Choice Awards on Nickelodeon for favorite actress. Goodman and Barr received the most awards. Laurie Metcalf won three Emmy’s, John Goodman and Sara Gilbert only received nominations. However, Gilbert, along with Michael Fishman and Johnny Galecki all won the Young Artist Award. Many awards are deserved when you do something that the people want and it is actually good!

The Reunion We’ve All Been Waiting For

After a long wait, the cast reunited to roast Roseanne in 2012 on Comedy Central. The show was hosted by Jane Lynch, most famous for her role on Glee. The panel of roasters included Gilbert Gottfried, Amy Schumer, Wayne Brady, Carrie Fisher and Seth Green. The roasters tackled all of the scandals associated with the show.

“I had a great time at the Roseanne Roast,” said Michael Fishman. “Had to sign off the Comedy Central handle before I say anything too bad. After Party = no censor.” That’s good they all got together to roast!

Straight To DVD

All nine seasons are available on DVD, from Anchor Bay Entertainment in regions one and two. But these episodes are edited because of issues with music rights. In 2011 another media company, Mill Creek Entertainment, re-released all 222 episodes in region one. So if you don’t want to stream on Netflix, you can always head out to your local store and buy the complete set of the series. It could be a great gift to a long time friend and also be great material to watch when you have guests over.

The Conners Are More Like Typical Families

Overall, the Conners were a fun family who taught America a lot of life lessons. In the end, the audience laughed, loved and lost along with the Conners. Sometimes audiences were a little confused with the Becky jokes and some of the dream sequences. Roseanne, however, did present authentic characters and progressive insights.

The show provided something that many people in the real world could relate to. Especially back then, when social media was non-existent, it was a chance to see how other families got to operate in an authentic and enjoyable way.

Fishman Says Roseanne Was Like A Second Mom

There weren’t any behind-the-scenes romances on the show, but this is probably because the entire cast and crew were like a family. In 2013, Lecy Goranson and Michael Fishman, Becky and DJ, talked to Fox News about their life on set: “She was a very dynamic personality and very outspoken and willing to be blunt with you and I always felt that was a huge benefit to use because we knew exactly where we stood,” Fishman said. So whoever cast Roseanne made one of the best casting decisions ever when they chose her. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.

Roseanne Boycotted Her Own Show

Producer Matt Williams studied Roseanne’s comedy act and how she interacted with her real family in order to draw inspiration for the show. Essentially, the show was created about her life. But when the pilot credits listed Williams as the “creator” of the show, Roseanne had none of it. Roseanne protested this by refusing to do lines and walking off the set. After constantly butting heads with Roseanne, Williams left the show after the first season. Roseanne was going to stand for what she thought was right and she did just that whenever she got the chance to.

Fighting For Equality

One of the biggest quarrels that Matt Williams and Roseanne got into was how Roseanne wanted gay characters to be in the series. And like you have already read, it seems like Roseanne won that battle too. So it just seems that she is undefeated in battles when it comes to the show. It isn’t much controversy now concerning gay characters but back then there was. She wanted the gay characters to be added because her brother and sister are both gay. “My show seeks to portray a various slice of real life, and homosexuals are a reality,” said Roseanne.