Liz Tells Frank What Happened In the “Roseanne” Series Finale
Did you read that piece Roseanne wrote for New York Magazine last year? If you didn’t, you should — it was really great! I mean, she has a very strong point of view on what kind of women are “good” for feminism and what kind aren’t, and the part where she takes credit for discovering Joss Whedon is probably interesting news to Joss Whedon.
But the part where she threatened a producer with a pair of scissors is a great deal of fun, and in general the account of how she seized control of the TV show with her name on it is inspiring. In a “boy, it’s probably for the best that you’ve moved onto growing macadamia nuts and running for President” kind of way. (Bitch be CRAZY, yo.)
One thing she writes about is the day when Roseanne, in its seventh season, dropped out of the Nielsen Top 10 rated shows and she could no longer get a table at the Palm. I bring this up because that’s probably about the point I stopped watching the show, for reasons I cannot recall.
I’d always liked the show, after all. It probably had something to do with a time slot change or a conflict with Star Trek. Or maybe I just lost interest — clearly I wasn’t the only one to get tired of the blue collar Connors and their struggles with daily life.
Whatever the case, the point is that I never saw the Roseanne series finale. I sure HEARD about it, though — how the entire ninth season, in which the Connors win the lottery and have to adjust to becoming fabulously rich, was revealed to be fictional. Literally fiction, being written by Roseanne. Which was intriguing to me! In a “oh my god that sounds awful or maybe awesome” kind of way. (Seriously, bitch be CRAZY.)
So today, I went to YouTube, where someone has posted the last ten minutes of the last episode, and finally watched it. It was simultaneously exactly what I expected and a complete revelation. Maybe in a good way.
The last scenes go as follows: Roseanne and her family are eating dinner in their new, opulent post-lottery digs. (My longing for the set I remember well, deliberately grungy and second-hand, is profound. It’s not Roseanne if there isn’t at least one crocheted afghan draped over something.)
Roseanne is watching them joke around and talking in voice-over– Oh, my god, so much voice-over. Frank, brace yourself: This is 10 minutes long and it’s entirely voice-over. 1990s network television, everyone!
Slowly, in the voice-over Roseanne starts revealing that she’s “changed” things about the characters we’ve known for nine years; it was her sister, not her mother, who turned out to be a lesbian, and she felt that the brothers her daughters married weren’t the right pairings, so she swapped the couples for her purposes. (I’m not sure which way they were to begin with — this part’s confusing — but hey, it’s been ages since I watched an episode of this show.)
The biggest surprise is that Dan, Roseanne’s husband, is dead — the heart attack he apparently had in Season 8 apparently actually killed him. And that is motherfucking SAD, Frank. Not just because Dan Connor is one of John Goodman’s most cuddly and sweet roles (and since the bulk of John Goodman’s career has been spent in the cuddly arena, that’s saying something), but… I dunno.
Dan and Roseanne were one of those TV couples where you genuinely felt they loved each other — it’s arguably one of the best-realized sitcom marriages ever. (According to Wikipedia, we missed some bullshit in Season 9 where Dan fell in love with his mother’s nurse, but for our purposes let’s just ignore that.)
We eventually fade out of the fancy dining room for the final reveal: Roseanne sitting at her writing desk at her old house, writing about how she’s spent the past year working on a book about her family getting magically rich to cope with the grief of losing Dan.
Someone has gone to the trouble of transcribing this insanely long voice-over on IMDB, which is why I’m able to provide you with the following quote:
My writing’s really what got me through the last year after Dan died. I mean at first I felt so betrayed as if he had left me for another women. When you’re a blue-collar woman and your husband dies it takes away your whole sense of security. So I began writing about having all the money in the world and I imagined myself going to spas and swanky New York parties just like the people on TV, where nobody has any real problems and everything’s solved within 30 minutes. I tried to imagine myself as Mary Richards, Jeannie, That Girl. But I was so angry I was more like a female Steven Segal wanting to fight the whole world.
I’m not going to lie to you, Frank: I am writing this right now at a restaurant, in public, and rereading that quote — just READING it — got me teary. It just gets to me, the idea of throwing yourself into creating an idealized fiction, to cope with the tragedy of real life. It is something any writer can understand. Any person, really.
Of course, I’m writing about a goddamn TV show, but there’s something about this that really gets to the heart of why Roseanne was so different from the sitcoms that came before and have come after.
Unfortunately, while it’s very heartfelt and sweet, oh my GOD I didn’t even have to look at the IMDB listing for this episode to know that Roseanne was a co-writer on it.
Seriously, just go look at the monologue that quote above comes from — it goes on forever and a good editor would have trimmed the self-indugence right out of it, but I guess one of the consequences of seizing control over your TV show with your name on it is that good editors get left out of the loop.
Roseanne finishes monologuing, emerges from her writing room into the REAL Connor kitchen/living room set, in all its glorious afghaned glory, and sits down on the couch to watch TV. A quote from T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) appears on screen… And that’s how the series ends.
And I’m glad I’ve seen it, because the more I think about this ending the more I like it. Granted, I get to say that because I didn’t experience the great Season 9 circle-jerk everyone else did (though holy shit fake-rich-Roseanne partied with Edwina and Patsy HOLY SHIT THAT’S RAD).
But it’s a bold approach, and deliberately provokes thought on the idea of fantasy versus reality — the crude fictions we create for ourselves, and the slick fantasies that now comprise the bulk of new television programming.
It might be kind of a bummer. But that’s life for you.
Posted on November 6, 2012, in All the Spoilers, TV and tagged John Goodman, Roseanne, Roseanne Barr, series finales are what ruin shows, UNEXPECTED AB-FAB CROSSOVER IS UNEXPECTED. Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.