Liz Tells Frank What Happened In the “Roseanne” Series Finale

Dear Frank,

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.

Really not kidding about about that T.E. Lawrence quote, Frank.

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.


About Liz Shannon Miller

Liz Shannon Miller is a Los Angeles-based writer and editor, and has been talking about television on the Internet since the very beginnings of the Internet. She is currently Senior TV Editor at Collider, and her work has also been published by the New York Times, Vulture, Variety, the AV Club, the Hollywood Reporter, IGN, The Verge, and Thought Catalog. She is also a produced playwright, a host of podcasts, and a repository of "X-Files" trivia.

Posted on November 6, 2012, in All the Spoilers, TV and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 17 Comments.

  1. Shit. I never saw the finale either and now I am bawling.

  2. I never saw the finale either and though, like you said, it should probably have been trimmed, it was still really touching. Wonderful post, again.

  3. Roseanne is the shit. I’m loving your blog here by the way. So the thing with Dan’s Mom’s nurse, though, it was Season 9, so it was “fiction”, yeah? I can’t remember bc I haven’t seen it in awhile but I’m pretty sure. Anyways – Season 9 is goofy – Roseanne fights robbers on a train once, and other equally zany shit goes down. If you love the series, its worth watching for a few laughs. I kind of want to own the DVDs. Cool.

    • Thank you, Nick! Your avatar photo is perfect. And that’s a good tip on Season 9 — I’ll have to track it down someday!

    • I know this was asked a little bit ago, but Dan never cheated on Roseanne. She felt she was being cheated out of a husband when he passed away so she created the nurse in season 9 to emulate that feeling.

    • Yup fiction. Roseanne explains in her monologue that it was easier to believe he left her for another woman than he died. Still a kick in the gut to think Dan was dead for two seasons and it was her mourning that we were experiencing in those god awful episodes of season nine.

  4. Sarah Goodwich

    The Series “Roseanne” reminds me of Elvis… i.e. started out great, but ended up becoming spoiled by success, going crazy and dying on the toilet.

    This shows what happens from “creative control” gone bad; Roseanne even referred to her production-staff by assigned numbers rather than by name, and had all the co-creators fired along with anyone who didn’t obey her every whim.

    It just shows networks will do anything as long as the show turns a profit, and that the last season is the one that loses money. It’s like Bart Simpson said, “If I had a series I’d run it into the ground…” in the 22nd season of The Simpsons.

  5. I have a bitter take on the ending. To me, what Roseanne did was take 9 years of getting to know and love TV characters and then take them away from you in one stupid monologue.

    If she wanted to make a good ending that would have shocked people too, she could have made everything after Dan’s heart attack a story. The lottery win, etc..

    But going back to when Becky and Darlene met and fell in love with Mark & David, and then switching her mothers’ and sisters’ sexuality, made every single episode of Roseanne a made up story.

    Of course it was all a made up story anyway, but the way the show ended is exactly how not to connect with your viewers. She ruined the series and the reruns. At least for me…..

  6. I disagree with the above commenter. As the show went on, Roseanne’s earthy, intelligent, feisty, subversive voice came through the show. She talked more about what she wanted to, no matter the topic. She didn’t want to be some wisecracking housewife forever. She kept going deeper. Think the first season vs the fourth season vs the sixth season. In succession, Roseanne came through fine and beautifully. As she took creative control the show go better and it blossomed. As for the last season, I liked it, but that wasn’t the whole show, it was just one season, which I think people should open up to. It was great too, different, but great.

  7. Honestly, Yes Dan’s death is sad and surprising.. However the couple swap, shocks the holy hell out of me.. Confused? No.. Weirded out yes.. I can see Becky and David.. 1. Darlene was way way way too young for Mark.. #Jailbait So that throws it way out of context.. Mark would’ve been thrown in jail..

  1. Pingback: The Full Story Behind The Terribly Weird Final Season Of ‘Roseanne’ –

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