Anchor Bay // 1989 // 530 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski // January 25th, 2006
"I feel like a used piece of gum that someone stuck under the table. I'm just waiting for the excitement of drying up and hitting the floor." -- Roseanne
The Conner family of Lanford, IL continues to struggle with jobs, bills, kids, and parents. But somehow Roseanne and Dan always find time for jokes...and sometimes even a good roll in the sack!
Here's a breakdown of the second season's 24 episodes:
* "Inherit the Wind"
While Roseanne fills out "invoices to order new children," Becky experiences a teenage right of passage: a horrifying public humiliation hinted at in the title.
* "The Little Sister"
After Roseanne discourages Jackie from becoming a cop, the little sisters Darlene and Jackie commiserate. The method Jackie uses to finally convince Roseanne is classic and Dan's Julia Child impression is not to be missed.
* "Guilt By Disassociation"
Fed up with telemarketing discount magazine subscriptions, Roseanne applies for a secretarial job at a meat packing company. The brassy woman interviewing her likes her attitude, but balks at her total lack of computer skills.
* "Somebody Stole My Gal"
One of the most irritating and unfunny guest characters of the early seasons takes over this episode: Burt Drucker. He's an architect working with Dan and he gives Roseanne some work, so the Conners invite him over for dinner (mistake number one). The problem is, he's a lonely, needy guy desperate to buy their friendship...wait, why is this a problem?
* "House of Grown-Ups"
Entrusting the job of taping her soaps to Dan, Jackie heads off for six weeks of police training camp. Despite borrowed thrills from Jackie's VCR, Roseanne gets depressed about her sister's absence. Meanwhile, Becky takes Darlene, disguised as "her cousin Vivian from Chicago" to a high school party and talks to her about kissing boys.
* "Five of a Kind"
Stereotypical male and female behavior take root one Saturday night when Dan hosts a poker game and Roseanne invites Jackie over for some primo gossip. Unfortunately, the topic of discussion is the ambiguous kiss that Dan's buddy Arnie planted on Roseanne. And incidentally, the guys gossip as much as the gals by the end.
The first of the series's Halloween episodes introduces the Conners' passion for scares as Dan and Roseanne try to one-up each other's spooky tricks throughout the day.
* "Sweet Dreams"
Roseanne drifts into a dreamworld in which cartoonish incarnations of her family members prevent her from taking a bubble bath with two hunky servants. It is almost too painful to relive this episode enough to explain why it is one of the worst of the series. Could it be the tropical, fantasy-bathroom set that producers must have found in the alley behind The Golden Girls's studio? Or maybe it's the corny "special effects" of Roseanne vanquishing her husband and children that smack of 1990s cheapest editing technology? The god-awful musical number at the end puts the final nail in the coffin.
* "We Gather Together"
It's Thanksgiving at the Conner household, which means invasion by bickering family and friends. Cooking a dead bird is the least of Roseanne's problems as she tries to keep Jackie from telling their parents about her new career, prevent Dan from fighting with his Dad, and convince her own parents to stay in motel.
* "Brain-Dead Poets Society"
Darlene usually excels only at sports and wise-cracking, so when she wins a poetry contest at school, Roseanne is ecstatic. But by trying to encourage her kid's talent, she fails to realize that there may be a good reason that Darlene doesn't want to read her poem at an upcoming assembly.
Confusingly titled, this episode is not really about Jackie but about Dan and Roseanne struggling to find time for each other. Roseanne is working days at Chicken Delite and nights at The Lobo lounge, so she and Dan are both wishing for some "alone time."
* "No Talking"
Teenage rebellion is in the air as Becky vies for power at home. Convinced that her nosy mother should stop controlling her life, she institutes a "no-talking" policy that may push Roseanne into reading Becky's diary.
* "Chicken Hearts"
Roseanne tries to "catch flies with honey instead of vinegar" by kissing up to her teenage boss at the fast food joint where she works. Having him over for dinner is just as humiliating as Roseanne expects, but not quite as productive.
* "One for the Road"
Becky goes on a bender when her parents go out for the night, whipping up a pitcher of "tornadoes" with a friend. As Darlene tries to cover for her older sister, Dan and Roseanne puzzle over why their well-behaved daughter broke into the liquor cabinet.
* "An Officer and a Gentleman"
With Roseanne out of town, Jackie takes a turn as the mother hen of the Conner brood. To everyone's surprise, she becomes a model caretaker and a charming "wife." The scenes between her and Dan aim for sweet but end up more awkward and creepy.
* "Born To Be Wild"
A visit from an old biker buddy forces Dan and Roseanne to confront their calm life of domesticity. Realizing his bad-boy days are far behind him, Dan considers selling his beloved -- if dusty -- motorcycle.
Despairing and depressed about her unemployment, Roseanne sinks to applying for a job sweeping up hair and answering phones at a local beauty shop. But after meeting the folks who work there, she rethinks whether the job will be as soul-crushing as she imagined.
* "I'm Hungry"
The much-loathed "D" word rears its head in the Conner household when Dan and Roseanne reluctantly go on a diet.
* "All of Me -- Part I"
Jackie has a new boyfriend, Gary, that she is crazy about...and it shows, especially the "crazy" part. When Roseanne criticizes her sister for being overzealous, Jackie loses patience with her condescension and stops talking to her. For someone so loud, Roseanne sure gets "the silent treatment" enough this season!
* "To Tell the Truth -- Part II"
The feud between Jackie and Roseanne is lasting longer than usual and is starting to disrupt life for the rest of the family. Both Dan and Gary try to reconcile the two sisters, but it's a surprise announcement that really does the trick.
* "Fender Bender"
Roseanne's minor nemesis and former boss Mrs. Wellman rear ends her as she is leaving the beauty parlor. Stuck at home with medical bills and missed pay, Roseanne considers taking the obnoxious-dog-owning, non-tipping, name-forgetting woman to court. A guest spot from Office Space's stapler guy and a scene of Roseanne doped up on painkillers help this one along.
* "April Fool's Day"
It's tax day and Dan is racing against the clock to finish the family's forms. That's about it. The moral of this story is that taxes are complicated and the IRS has poor customer service. Thanks, Roseanne!
* "Fathers and Daughters"
On this week's episode of Child Swap, Roseanne tries to watch a basketball game with Darlene while Dan shops with Becky at the mall.
* "Happy Birthday"
In the day-to-day maternal grind of getting food on the table and making sure the kids are still breathing, Roseanne feels that she has lost the creative outlet of her youth: writing. Dan and the kids spruce up the basement as a birthday surprise for her, giving the would-be novelist a quiet place to create her masterpieces. Watching this touching, benign episode, who could have known what later horrors it would facilitate for Roseanne? If you don't know what I mean, stay tuned for our review of the final season. Still, I can't really punish the episode for its later use...
The second season of Roseanne has a similar tone to the first, but the writers push themes of being relatively poor, overworked, and approaching middle age into slightly darker territory. The main events are still the everyday trials and tribulations of working class families, focusing particularly on the lack of fulfilling jobs available to women like Roseanne. Despite being the unopposed queen bee at home, when Roseanne walks back into the world of employment, she is just a frazzled mom with a high school education who doesn't know how to work a computer. Seeing her try to sell magazine subscriptions over the phone while her kids are screaming in the background, or drag herself to shifts at Chicken Delite or The Lobo Lounge, is pretty bold and depressing material for a sitcom. The same can be said for Dan's storylines, especially in "Born To Be Wild." Viewers are used to seeing him in the role of the comic relief, the one who does a funny impression or tells a joke to cheer up a family member and lighten the mood. But in this episode he is beaten down by life, missing the "chug on through and laugh along the way" attitude he usually embodies.
The gamble with more serious themes pays off this season (as it would fail to do toward the end of the series) largely because the writers stay true to the characters and their sarcastic, witty, defiant attitudes. A perfect example of the difference between these episodes and the later ones is illustrated by the final scene of "We Gather Together." This is one of the first times we experience "voiceover Roseanne," giving the audience her thoughts directly as she stares at her husband and kids sleeping on the couch after the Thanksgiving meal is over and the guests have left. She thinks, "Look at 'em in there, laying around like a bunch of beached whales. And they're all mine. And for this I am truly thankful...'course I'd trade any one of 'em for a dishwasher." The writers set up a really sweet moment and then cut through the sugar with a great one-liner before it becomes nauseating or worse, boring. This tactic was ruined by later writing staffs who created similar voiceover moments but dropped the punchlines, partly causing the extreme deterioration of a show that is still fantastic at this point in its run.
As usual, Darlene and Jackie steal almost every scene they're in. The best episode of the season, "Brain-Dead Poets Society," features the former at both her wittiest and her most vulnerable. And she has at least one great, sarcastic line in almost every episode, like the following:
[Becky walks in all dressed up]
Dan: Hold it. Could this woman be my little Becky?
Darlene: Not all of her. If I were you, I'd check upstairs for some missing Kleenex.
Jackie gets some good material this season, and the talented Laurie Metcalf transforms even her mediocre lines into big laughs. One of my favorite reoccurring themes in season two is Jackie's cop advice. Whenever she gets the chance, she puffs herself up, butts into conversations, and dishes out some wisdom from a woman on "the force." More often than not, the "wisdom" is overly simplistic, irrational, or just plain incorrect, which the kids quickly point out. After Roseanne's car accident, she tries to teach them a safety lesson:
Jackie: You know, a cop's gotta say it: you never pull a dead man out of a
Darlene: What do you do, just leave him there?
Jackie: Some cops do. I don't.
A few interesting staff writers show up this season. Tom Arnold, Roseanne's real life future husband -- and then future ex-husband -- pens "Lobocop." And Joss Whedon -- later creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, and Firefly (you may know him by his other name, God) -- serves as writer and/or story editor for many of the season's episodes.
The discs are noticeably improved this time around. Most importantly, the episodes are complete in this release, unlike in the first season set which included the shortened versions used for syndication. The picture quality also seems a lot better this time with nice sharp images and reduced graininess. The sound quality is just fine, too. However, Roseanne: The Complete Second Season is still plagued by an irritating menu navigation system, insufficient chapter breaks, and lackluster extras. Said extras are in the mold of the first season's. There is an overlong interview with Michael Fishman, "DJ: All Grown Up," and a new interview with John Goodman that feels like just another dose of the old interview with John Goodman from last season. "Best of Season Two" and "Wacky Jackie," predictably, are just clip shows that Anchor Bay tossed together. The only semi-interesting extra is the short feature, "Roseanne Reunited -- Behind the Scenes: Season One Launch Party," which at least provides the fun of seeing all the cast members grown and gussied up. "Peanut Butter and Jellyfish" is a trailer masquerading as an extra for a truly bizarre-looking kids' show that Roseanne is apparently doing now. Is it really too much to ask for even a single commentary track? It would be really fun to get Whedon back for some.
Deftly balancing dark and light material, jokes and drama, Roseanne: The Complete Second Season is a collection of great episodes from series that was still great back then. Anchor Bay does a better job on the set this time around with the uncut versions, though the extras still stink worse than Dan's dirty socks.
Roseanne: The Complete Second Season is off the hook on account of some high-quality episodes. But if Roseanne herself shelled out her hard-earned dollars for this set, she might want a refund once she saw the extras.
Review content copyright © 2006 Jennifer Malkowski; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 530 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* John Goodman: A Candid Interview
* DJ: All Grown Up
* Best of Season Two
* Wacky Jackie
* Roseanne Reunited -- Behind the Scenes: Season One Launch Party
* Peanut Butter & Jellyfish trailer
* John Goodman Audition