Starz Home Entertainment // 1995 // 575 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski // September 5th, 2007
"So this is Roseanne! Prove it: do that thing where you spew bile and scare children." -- Scott, Leon's fiancé
Having seen plenty of dreadful ninth-season episodes of Roseanne, I was expecting to see a major slide in quality start here in the eighth season. Surprisingly, though, Roseanne: Season Eight still retains much of the humor and warmth that made the show so great at its peak -- just in smaller doses.
Roseanne Conner (Roseanne) performs the role of a surly "domestic goddess" with a great sense of humor about her crippling financial troubles in this classic family sitcom. Living a working-class life in small-town Lanford, Illinois, 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 and Lecy Goranson) and much-loathed hubby Mark (Glenn Quinn) live nearby in a trailer park. Cynical Darlene (Sara Gilbert) makes frequent visits from college in Chicago to her ever-emasculated boyfriend, David (Johnny Galecki), who occupies the Conner basement. Cute-but-scheming DJ (Michael Fishman) continues to play the troublemaker. 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 shows up here and there this season.
Roseanne: Season Eight includes all 25 episodes spread over four discs, with Roseanne's interview on the fourth disc and video commentaries attached to the episodes themselves.
* "Shower the People You Love With Stuff"
Roseanne has her eye on a pricey crib for the new baby, so she throws a baby shower and plans to return all the gifts to pay the bill.
D: "Wow! You remember these [dents], Rosie?"
R: "I sure do! That's where Darlene banged DJ's head in the wall every year to show how tall he'd grown."
* "Let Them Eat Junk"
Roseanne and Jackie argue over parenting techniques when Roseanne lets little Andy eat an Oreo. Dan tries to show DJ that he has a multifaceted personality.
Jackie: "Roseanne, my child has Oreo breath!"
Roseanne: "Well, relax. That's just because we were drinking an Oreo-flavored liqueur."
* "Roseanne In The Hood"
The Lunch Box faces competition from a classy diner across the street, prompting Roseanne to fight back, and fight dirty.
Roseanne: "A salad bar?!? Well, obviously they're not from around here. This is a loose meat kind of a town. We are not some California, tofu-eating, Nordic-tracking freaks that wanna live past fifty!"
* "The Last Date"
Roseanne and Dan crash a Bar Mitzvah as a last hurrah before the baby is born. Meanwhile, Darlene and Becky do some celebrating of their own with a bottle of Schnapps they find in the diner.
Dan: "Well, if there's a lonely, pathetic, yet bizarrely chipper woman standing in our kitchen with a Monopoly game, it must be Saturday night!"
* "Halloween: The Final Chapter"
A Conner consultation with the Ouija board launches Roseanne into a trippy hallucination about giving birth.
David [to trick-or-treaters]: "Okay, who wants the plum?"
* "The Fifties Show" (with video commentary)
The lost "original pilot" of Roseanne presents the Conners we know and love as '50s sitcom archetypes.
Dan: "Hey, what do you say we push our twin beds together tonight and..."
Roseanne: "Shhh! The kids will hear you!"
* "The Getaway, Almost"
Roseanne and Jackie have an unexpected encounter with third-wave feminism (and Jenna Elfman) on the way home from the mall. In their absence, Dan relishes having the house to himself.
Roseanne: "Boy, what a cool day! For the first time in two weeks, Jerry hasn't been cranky or clamping onto my breast every two seconds. Now if a car ride could just do the same for Dan."
* "The Last Thursday in November"
DJ's surprisingly "revisionist" school play prompts discussion (and a fantasy segment) about the first Thanksgiving.
Roseanne: "That was a really cool play, DJ. And I'm not just saying that because it's the only play I've ever seen."
* "Of Mice and Dan"
Dan wallows in old regrets when his old bandmate comes to town. David tries to stop DJ from breeding lab mice.
Roseanne: "I gave [Jackie] a dirty look."
Dan: "You call that defending me?"
Roseanne: "It wasn't just any dirty look, Dan; it was my combination nostril flare, lip curl, and half a squint."
* "Direct to Video"
While Roseanne works on a video letter to the new baby, the family forages for another source of dinner.
Mark: "Hey, I can cook!"
Jackie: "Now, Mark, when you say cook, do you mean cook or put Ragu on bread?"
Dan: "Oooh, that sounds good. Can you do that?"
* "December Bride"
Foolishly hiring Roseanne to plan their wedding, Leon and his fiancé, Scott, are wed in a sea of gaudy gay stereotypes.
Leon: "Of course. We'll have Roseanne plan our wedding. You know, I've always dreamed of a ceremony that would culminate in a hog fry."
Roseanne: "Hog fry? What, is the governor coming?!?"
* "The Thrilla Near the Vanilla Extract"
Jackie and Roseanne face off as free sample distributors at the local grocery store. Dan has a man-to-man talk with David about his future.
Roseanne: "Soya sausages...because it's made without pork, you'll be tops with your Jewish pals."
* "The White Sheep of the Family"
A small inheritance check from a dead aunt focuses the Conners on their finances, and on the possibility of Darlene joining the middle class.
Roseanne: "We're not celebrating anybody's death. We're celebrating the fact that we've got $382 here. Her death was just a bonus."
* "Becky Howser, M.D."
Roseanne bites off more than she can chew when she schemes to make Becky reevaluate her life.
Becky: "Where you going to after you graduate, Darlene? New York? Paris? London?"
Darlene: "Ooh, somebody's been reading Hard Rock T-shirts."
* "Out of the Past"
It's playtime for the Conner clan: the kids play Scrabble, the guys play poker, and Roseanne and Jackie play with their childhood toys.
Becky [playing Scrabble]: "You won't give me 'Twinkie' but you'll give [Darlene] 'buckety?'"
David: "Well, fine, you challenge her."
Becky: "Yeah, and then I'll go poke Mom with a stick while she's sleeping."
* "Construction Junction"
Dan takes a gamble and goes for a big drywall contract. David introduces Jackie to the Internet.
Jackie: "I'm learning useful things. I'm growing as a person."
David: "You're in the Urkel chatroom!"
* "We're Going to Disney World, Part 1"
Like so many families and star athletes before them, the Conners are going to Walt Disney World! By the end of this first part, however, they haven't even made it off the plane.
Roseanne: "If we're gonna invest [this money], we shouldn't put it all in one place. I say we put half of it into the mattress and then the other half in tomato cans buried under the bush in the backyard."
* "Disney World War II, Part 2" (with video commentary)
On location at Disney World's Magic Kingdom and Epcot Center, the whole family experiences a wacky good time...even Darlene!
Roseanne: "We're gonna have so much fun, Jerry. You're gonna see a big, happy, smiling mouse -- not like those ones in the traps back home."
* "Springtime for David" (with video commentary)
Feeling pressured to move out of the Conner house, David takes a job at a strangely fascist theme park.
David: "I got a job! I got a really great job!"
Dan: "Call the movers. Call the really great movers!"
Roseanne: "I don't think you need a mover for five sweat socks and a tear-stained diary."
* "Another Mouth to Shut Up"
Darlene announces to the family -- and to David -- that she's pregnant and everybody tries to cope.
Roseanne: "I think we're making a little progress in this family. Becky got married when she was seventeen. I was only eighteen. At last a Conner woman is mature enough to put it off until she's nineteen years old."
* "Morning Becomes Obnoxious"
After being interviewed by a morning show, Roseanne gets invited to be a guest commentator.
Jackie: [about cameraman] "He is very attractive and I did not see a ring."
Roseanne: "Careful, Jackie, or he'll spot your dorsal fin moving through the water."
* "Ballroom Blitz"
Bev takes a single and desperate Jackie to her ballroom dancing class, but comes to regret it. Roseanne uses her morning show appearances to get free stuff.
Roseanne: "My sister and my mother are fighting over the same guy? The only thing left for this family is cannibalism."
* "The Wedding"
Darlene gets married -- and not in pants! Dan has mixed feelings about the event and David wishes his parents would attend.
Dan [to wedding guests]: "What's the matter? She's pregnant; she had to barf. Ain't none of you ever been to a wedding before?"
* "Heart and Soul"
A post-wedding heart attack lands Dan in the hospital and scares the family.
Dan: "Look at all the machines I'm hooked up to. If I was a car, this would cost eight or nine hundred bucks."
Roseanne: "Well, they said they probably just have to keep you in 'the shop' overnight. And the good news is, they're givin' me a loaner husband."
* "Fights and Stuff"
Dan gets home from the hospital, but has trouble adjusting to his new health regimen.
Dan: "Everything looks so different. Was the TV always there?"
Roseanne: "Yeah, you've probably just never seen it turned off before."
While watching the eight season of Roseanne, one often finds fault with a premise, but enjoys the execution. Ridiculous setups frequently pay off in comic payoffs that almost justify their implausibility. Let's take the most glaring example: the two Beckys. Actresses Sarah Chalke and Lecy Goranson tag team this season, seemingly trading off at random. The inconsistency is ludicrous, but it also results in some hilarious in-jokes for regular viewers. When Goranson returns in the premiere, Becky walks into a room and Roseanne snaps, "Where the hell have you been? It seems like you've been gone for three years!" Even better, when Chalke returns for the Disney episodes, she walks in the door and everyone freezes and a formal narrator makes an announcement:
Narrator: "Ladies and gentlemen: the role of Becky, originally played
by Lecy Goranson, then by Sarah Chalke, then by Lecy Goranson, will be played
this evening by Sarah Chalke."
Becky: "Disney World? I've always wanted to go there!"
Roseanne: "Aren't you glad that you're here this week?"
Lots of plot points we don't believe -- the Conners can afford a lavish week at Disney World, Darlene wants to have a baby, Jackie and Roseanne criminally vandalize a rival diner -- make up for their implausibility in little moments like the ones above. But some don't. We gawk at the idea that Leon would let Roseanne plan his wedding, and we're not rewarded with big laughs this time -- just a blandly gaudy, silly, sappy ceremony. Similarly, parody and fantasy episodes like "Halloween: The Final Chapter," "The Last Thursday in November," and "The Fifties Show," miss more than they hit, with the latter being the most successful. A lot of this seems like filler for a show that's out of solid character-development and stand-alone plot ideas. Along with these fantasy episodes, there are also a lot of episodes that revolve around minor characters this season, plus we endure two wedding episodes and two pregnancies. Yet even in the midst of lackluster episodes, like "Springtime for David," there are quite funny side gags, like DJ and Darlene's "baby vs. turtle" match.
The actors themselves are still in great form, with Roseanne doing truly top-notch sarcasm, as in moments like these:
Darlene: "What's wrong with this family?"
Roseanne: "Your father and I are really brothers."
Jackie: "I'm gonna borrow your book on child development,
Roseanne: "Yeah, but it's really old. You probably should ignore that chapter on the heartbreak of polio."
Goodman and Metcalf crank out their usual high level of laughs, but we get even less of the wonderful Sara Gilbert (who was off at college in real life, too) this season, and her pregnancy plot tones down her cynical side a bit too much.
Toward the end of the season, we see more of the overly serious scenes that bog down the final season of Roseanne. Dan's anger about Darlene's pregnancy, Dan's heart attack and the family's reactions to it, and the clunky moments when Dan and Roseanne each talk to God are prime examples. And yet, the season finishes on "Fights and Stuff," the best episode of the year. What makes this one so great is the same quality that makes the whole series so great, and the quality that is missing from the ninth season: a perfect balance of social commentary and humor, enacted by realistic, likable characters.
In the cycle of mediocre extras followed by no extras followed by mediocre extras, we're back to mediocre extras with Roseanne: Season Eight. The new interview has Roseanne chatting about a few topics: the working class, the series' two Beckys, Laurie Metcalf's performances, and "the gay issue." Roseanne does utter some insightful statements about her show, but the feature is short (eight minutes), loaded with clips, and much of the material has been discussed before on previous interviews. As for the video commentaries, they employ a nicely designed split-screen type format in order to show us the commentators and the episode simultaneously:
While I like the design on these commentaries, the content is disappointing. Roseanne and Fishman are only on-screen and commenting for about half of each episode, and most of their "comments" involve restating the jokes they just heard, laughing, and saying things like, "Goodman is great." Once in a while, Roseanne will deliver a witty remark, as she does when she explains that Disney World demanded the cast be seen on one of the rides. Her response: "I just wanted to be seen at the snack bar." But moments like this one are scarce in the commentaries.
Picture and sound quality are consistent with the last few sets, with the main problem being imbalanced levels on dialogue (too quiet), and audience applause and laughter (too loud). Also like previous sets, the discs arrive in two slim plastic cases with an outer cardboard sleeve.
In the end, Roseanne: Season Eight ends up in the plus column in terms of reinforcing the show's multiple legacies. One of the most important is articulated in Roseanne's interview: "In the future, if there's some other fat little girl that's about five or six and wants to find me, she could find me. She could read everything I wrote and go, "Man, I knew somebody else was sayin' this."
Roseanne hangs on to its "not guilty" stamp for one more season.
Review content copyright © 2007 Jennifer Malkowski; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 575 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Three Video Commentaries with Roseanne and Michael Fishman
* Interview with Roseanne
* Season One Review
* Season Two Review
* Season Three Review
* Season Four Review
* Season Five Review
* Season Six Review
* Season Seven Review