Anchor Bay // 1993 // 575 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski // January 24th, 2007
"Mrs. Conner is never unhappy alone." -- Dan Conner
In its sixth season, the domestic goddess's classic sitcom started to descend from the creative peak it reached the year before. There's no need to head for the escape hatch yet -- the jokes are still funny and frequent, and the plots remain pretty grounded. However, this is the season in which we witness the first sign of the Roseanne apocalypse: the (first) shift in Becky actresses, with Sarah Chalke replacing Lecy Goranson.
Roseanne Conner (Roseanne) plays a surly "domestic goddess" with a great sense of humor as she faces crippling financial troubles in this classic family sitcom. Living a working-class life in small-town Lanford, Ill., the Conners are always struggling with money trouble and their willful children. Dan (John Goodman) is the father, by turns uproariously funny and devastatingly depressed. Eldest child Becky (Sarah Chalke) reappears with new hubby Mark (Glenn Quinn) to move back in with her parents. Cynical Darlene (Sara Gilbert) heads off to college in Chicago, leaving behind her ever-emasculated boyfriend, David (Johnny Galecki). Cute-but-scheming DJ (Michael Fishman) takes a solitary step toward manhood, mostly conducted while locked in the bathroom. Lovable loser Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) is still here to steal scenes as Roseanne's hapless sister and their much-loathed mother Bev (Estelle Parsons) also has a large role this season.
Roseanne: The Complete Sixth Season includes all 25 episodes of the season, uncut, distributed over four discs:
"Two Down, One to Go"
Roseanne drives Darlene to college in Chicago after the most melancholy Conner has a fight with David.
Roseanne: "All human beings connect sex and love -- except for men."
* "The Mommy's Curse"
Roseanne and Jackie tell Bev she can't work at the diner anymore. Then they feel an unfamiliar emotion: guilt.
Roseanne to Bev: "When I take a Band-Aid off my kid's knee, I just pull it off all at once. But you've been taking the same damn Band-Aid off my knee one hair at a time for forty years!"
* "Party Politics"
While Roseanne plans a housewarming party for Jackie, Darlene and DJ conspire and Fred tries to get another date with Jackie. I'm not really sure why the party never happens -- it feels like an anticlimax.
Roseanne to Jackie: "You know you oughtta give Fred a chance. He's one of your better sleazy one-night stands that you've ever had. You should get to know him vertically."
* "A Stash from the Past"
Roseanne yells at David for finding pot in his room -- then Dan realizes the stash is hers from years ago.
Darlene: "I don't smoke pot. It dulls my hatred."
* "Be My Baby"
As Dan and Roseanne struggle to get pregnant, someone else in their life has an unexpected success in the same arena.
Dan: "Remember the good old days when sex was fun?"
Roseanne: "Well, yeah, but those guys didn't mean anything to me."
* "Halloween V"
Roseanne makes Dan pull a Halloween prank on Nancy to prove that he likes her, but unbeknownst to her, another bigger prank is brewing...
Nancy: "I'm so touched I could cry -- Back in a sec! I love to watch myself cry."
Darlene visits and concocts a secret plan with an unhappy David. Meanwhile, DJ is becoming a man -- if one becomes a man by mysteriously locking himself in the bathroom for hours every day...
Darlene: "DJ's finally got a friend that's not imaginary."
* "Guilt By Imagination"
Roseanne fumes when Dan goes to lunch with an old flame, while Jackie learns to lie.
Fred: Your ears "are just petite, delicate."
Jackie: [giggles] "Can't really take credit for that -- although I have always tried to sleep on them evenly."
During Dan's 25-year football team reunion, Becky and Mark return to Lanford.
Becky: "Why are you getting so mad?"
Roseanne: "Because you are making me defend Mark!"
* "Thanksgiving '93"
At the annual Turkey Day dinner, Bev reveals something startling about her marriage, Darlene and David skip out on the event, and Dan finally stops resisting ramming his fist into Mark's face.
Darlene: "Mom, I gotta spend time with [David] or he's gonna start seeing other girls."
Roseanne: "Why, is there some rush all of a sudden on five-foot-two moody boys with no body hair?"
* "The Driver's Seat"
After DJ gets caught joyriding in the family car, Roseanne gives him a punishment that she's not proud of.
Roseanne: "And I wouldn't want to offend you, either, you balding albino idiot. Tell me when I cross the line!"
* "White Trash Christmas"
Dan and Roseanne outdo themselves with the tackiest possible Christmas decorations. Becky starts working at a sleazy restaurant, and DJ finds out that David is shacked up with Darlene in Chicago.
DJ: "Do you use birth control?"
Darlene: "Yes, DJ, we keep a picture of you right next to the bed."
"Suck Up or Shut Up"
The Lunch Box ladies join a women's group to network. Dan catches Mark lying to Becky about going to school.
Dan: "Mark's got a mind of his own."
Roseanne: "Yeah, well I've got an exercise bike, too, but that don't mean I'm never gonna use it."
Couples are fighting all over the place: Becky and Mark aren't speaking, and the honeymoon is over for David and Darlene, who are living together.
Dan: "How is this my fault?"
Roseanne: "Because Mark is a butthead and girls always marry their fathers."
* "David Vs. Goliath"
Everyone in the Conner household tries to keep Dan from finding out that David has been living with Darlene.
Jackie: "As far as I'm concerned, kids grow up fine as long as they have one decent parent."
Roseanne: "Oh, man. Would you please stop quoting that Murphy Brown?!?"
* "Everyone Comes to Jackie's"
Tempers converge at Jackie's house when Dan finds out David has been staying there and Roseanne tries to direct his blame toward Darlene instead.
Roseanne: "You are in big trouble and your punishment is not going to be sex with your boyfriend."
Darlene: "Well, obviously you've never had sex with my boyfriend."
* "Don't Make Room for Daddy"
Fred decides to sue Jackie for custody of her baby and Dan tries to make sure the lava doesn't flow his direction when Roseanne erupts.
Roseanne to Dan: "But now, in the light of day, after all the other males on earth have decided that it's your turn to use the brain, you can see the error of your thinking, right?"
* "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"
Roseanne goes to a gay bar with Nancy and comes down with a minor case of homosexual panic.
Roseanne: "Well, Jackie, it doesn't bother us if [the bar] is gay!"
Nancy: "It might. Friday is convert a hetero night."
Roseanne and Fred battle over the right to witness Jackie give birth while everyone else shields their eyes.
Roseanne: "The only women that give birth real fast are like those big fat Iowa women that don't even know they're pregnant in the first place."
* "Past Imperfect"
Honesty proves to be the worst policy when Fred asks about Jackie's romantic past.
Jackie: "Oh, I'm not mad, Jim -- I mean Fred. There's so many of you, I get confused..."
* "Lies My Father Told Me"
Dan copes with his mother's mental illness by lashing out at his father.
Darlene: "Only in our family can someone be a nutcase for twenty years without anyone noticing."
* "I Pray The Lord My Stove To Keep"
Morality comes a' knockin' at the Conner household when DJ finds God.
Darlene: "Yeah, maybe [DJ] will be like your cousin Jesco. Wasn't he the one that sent us the Bible with every single word highlighted?"
* "Body by Jake"
Bev breaks her hip doing something that shocks Roseanne and Jackie. Fred considers proposing to Jackie.
Roseanne: "I cannot have a talk about sex with Mom. If she even says the word 'intercourse,' I'll burst into flames."
* "Isn't It Romantic"
In one of the show's weaker men-are-from-Mars-women-are-from-Venus episodes, Fred and Dan attempt to romance Jackie and Roseanne, while David makes the mistake of sharing his views about raising children.
Roseanne to Dan: "Your idea of romance is popping the can away from my face."
* "Altar Egos"
Pre-wedding jitters for Fred and Jackie unearth a deep, dark secret of the Conner family...
Jackie: "I'm startin' to see Fred for what he really is: scared, indecisive, emotionally unpredictable, and I don't wanna be married to somebody like me!"
And here the Becky Conner revolving casting door begins to turn as Sarah Chalke joins the cast and Lecy Goranson -- who had been mostly gone last season -- departs. But fear not! Bizarrely, Becky the former will be back. Becky has always been one of the weakest characters on the show, and her absence from the fifth season was basically welcome, freeing up more screen time for the rest of the phenomenal cast to do their thing. But this season, Becky returns and Darlene becomes the daughter less frequently glimpsed. The series suffers greatly from this shift, as Gilbert is perhaps the most reliable source of laughter on the series. Additionally, Chalke is no joy to watch. Becky has always been annoying, but when she was played by Goranson, one sensed that she was purposefully so. Goranson knew her way around the behaviors of bratty, ungrateful teens and made Becky an effective love-to-hate kind of character who was occasionally sympathetic. But the manufactured sweetness that ! good-girl Becky uses to get her way is played flatly by Chalke as genuine. Her version of Becky is a cheerful ditz, and her on-screen presence is stiff and awkward.
The rest of the cast maintains high-level humor, though a minute decrease in the quality of the jokes seems to occur. There are plenty of exceptions, though, with "Stash from the Past" and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and "I Pray the Lord My Stove to Keep" being comedy highlights. High-as-a-kite Jackie sitting quietly in the Conner's bathtub while Dan and Roseanne smoke decades-old pot is not to be missed. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" continues the gay Nancy storyline, which seems to reemerge every so often once the writers have collected enough razor-sharp lesbian jokes to fill another episode. And "I Pray the Lord My Stove to Keep" brings the fearsome presence of the Lord into the Conner household in his most unlikely form: former devil-boy DJ. His newfound judgmental side forces the Conners to consider the moral implications of their actions as never before, and to declare their religion:
Roseanne: "We believe in being good, so basically we're good
Dan: "But we're not practicing."
Estelle Parsons also provides more laughs than usual this year as the guilt-trip-happy Bev. One of the funniest single moments of the season occurs in "Body by Jake" when she discovers that Dan and Fred both know she broke her hip during sex with her retirement community boyfriend. Letting out a powerful shriek, she tries to feebly escape with her walker, but is trapped between the two men.
As far as the more dramatic storylines go, duplicitous attempts by David and Darlene to be together form the best one. Also bearable is Jackie's pregnancy and the tension it creates between the father, Fred, and Roseanne, who possessively refers to the unborn child as "our baby."
Less tolerable is Dan's angst about his mother's decreasing sanity level. Considering that Grandma Conner is a character we have barely (if ever) met, our investment in her mental health is pretty slight. Spanning two episodes, this plot makes "Lies My Father Told Me" an unfortunate prototype for the kinds of episodes that would help sink the show in later seasons -- those with high drama, not too well executed and not tempered by any humor. The series has had great success with mixing light and heavy tones, as Roseanne demonstrates while talking about the family's methods of coping, more generally, in that episode:
Dan: "You can never tell anybody gives a damn about anything 'round
here. All we ever do is yell at each other and make jokes."
Roseanne: "Well, Dan, I'm really upset that you've forgotten the occasional fist fight."
The best moment to come out of this storyline is a small one. When Dan's father refuses to give his ex-wife money when she needs it, Dan chews him out. In his defense, his father tries to redirect blame:
Dan's dad: "You know how women get!"
Dan: "Women have a tendency to get upset when you treat 'em like crap."
This exchange serves as a nice reminder of why Dan is a great guy and how the show never quite goes too far in its battle-of-the-sexes themes, always returning to the principle that the best way to "deal with" women like Roseanne is to respect them.
In terms of technical quality and extras, this is the worst release in the Roseanne series. Anchor Bay seems to have given up its half-assed efforts to produce special features for this show and offers nary a one on this set. Picture quality is fine and consistent with past Roseanne releases, but I've noticed the sound mix on Roseanne: Season Six is a bit off balance. Turn up the volume high enough to hear the dialogue and you'll be reminded a little too loudly of the live studio audience after each joke.
If you're looking for evidence that Sarah Chalke becoming Becky in this sixth season was a big mistake for Roseanne, check out JumpTheShark.com. Of their frequent offender categories in TV turning points when a series becomes crappy, "Same Character, Different Actor" is at the top. And the caption on that category's page reads: "Becky, is that you?" Significantly, though, it doesn't have the most votes for when Roseanne jumped. If you can't guess what does, stay tuned for the last season's review...
Despite a decrease in quality, both of the episodes and the DVD release, Roseanne: The Complete Sixth Season is hereby released on probation -- which is sure to be broken by Roseanne: The Complete Ninth Season, if not sooner.
Review content copyright © 2007 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: 575 Minutes
Release Year: 1993
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Roseanne's Official Site
* Season One Review
* Season Two Review
* Season Three Review
* Season Four Review
* Season Five Review