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Case Number 09737

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Roseanne: The Complete Fourth Season

Anchor Bay // 1991 // 583 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski (Retired) // July 26th, 2006

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All Rise...

If Judge Jennifer Malkowski had visited Roseanne when she worked as a mall Santa in this season, her Christmas wish would have been for a rewrite of this show's final few years.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of Roseanne: The Complete First Season (published December 7th, 2005), Roseanne: The Complete Second Season (published January 25th, 2006), Roseanne: The Complete Third Season (published April 19th, 2006), Roseanne: The Complete Fifth Season (published November 29th, 2006), Roseanne: The Complete Fifth Season (published October 26th, 2012), Roseanne: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 26th, 2012), Roseanne: The Complete Sixth Season (published January 24th, 2007), Roseanne: The Complete Seventh Season (published May 23rd, 2007), Roseanne: The Complete Eighth Season (published September 5th, 2007), and Roseanne: The Complete Ninth Season (published January 9th, 2008) are also available.

The Charge

"I like the Roseanne show because it's like real American people, or pretty much as real as it got for TV. They had real kids, real problems, they didn't solve anything, and they were always worried about money."—Roseanne

Opening Statement

A strong middle season of this groundbreaking show features the Conners owning their own business, Jackie becoming a trucker, Becky going on birth control, and the dark days of Darlene's depression. The balance between issues and humor is right on this year, with those "real problems" in the background of all the great jokes.

Facts of the Case

Roseanne: The Complete Fourth Season includes all of the season's 25 episodes, uncut:

Disc One

• "A Bitter Pill to Swallow"
Becky makes a troublingly adult request to Roseanne.
Dan: "I feel like callin' up your father and apologizing for ever having sex with his daughter."
Roseanne: "It's okay, Dan. It's enough that you've apologized to me."
Grade: A-

• "Take My Bike, Please"
Roseanne resolves to sell just one motorcycle at the Conners' bike shop.
Darlene: "DJ likes it."
Becky: "DJ eats hair!"
Grade: B

• "Why Jackie Becomes a Trucker"
Like Gob Bluth, Jackie has "made a huge mistake" in this one.
Dan: "I feel sorry for that little dog. Nobody wants him; it's pitiful."
Roseanne: "That reminds me, I need to call Jackie."
Grade: B

• "Darlene Fades to Black"
Darlene begins a period of depression and the shunning of bright colors.
Roseanne: "Oh, it's just so easy for you, Dan. Darlene is the jock and Becky's the brain."
DJ: "What am I?"
Roseanne: "We don't know yet."
Grade: A

• "Tolerate Thy Neighbor"
Roseanne fails to stop the Rubbles' house from being burglarized.
Kathy: "You are the stupidest woman on the face of the earth."
Roseanne: "Oh yeah? I paid 20 bucks for that piece of crap and you paid 200. That's stupid."
Grade: B+

• "Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down"
The Conners trick neighbor Kathy on Halloween and fear she will take revenge.
Becky: "God, I wish I had an adult role model."
Grade: B

Disc Two

• "Vegas"
Arnie and Nancy are getting married in Vegas and they invite Dan and Roseanne.
Roseanne: "God, Jackie, don't you have some chickens to drop off at the nugget factory or something?!"
Grade: B

• "Vegas, Vegas"
A Vegas vacation doesn't stop marital feuding between Dan and Roseanne.
Roseanne: "Uh oh. I just threw up on Paul Anka."
Grade: C+

• "Stressed to Kill"
Roseanne tries to quit smoking. Becky writes a paper for Darlene.
DJ: "You smell like smoke."
Roseanne: "Well…my hair was on fire!"
Grade: B

• "Thanksgiving 1991"
Roseanne and Jackie's dad is conspicuously absent from the festivities…
Darlene: "Jackie, would you like to read something?…I've got Kurt Vonegut on the top shelf."
Jackie: "Ooh, Cat in the Hat!"
Grade: B+

• "Kansas City Here We Come"
Roseanne goes with Jackie on a trucking run to their father's mistress's home town.
Roseanne: [on the phone with her mother] "So what if you got adjacent burial plots? That's no reason to stay married to somebody!"
Grade: B+

• "Santa Claus"
Roseanne works as Santa at Rodbell's. Darlene has a new grown-up friend.
Leon: "We need a Mrs. Claus. Do you think you could do that?"
Roseanne: "For ten bucks an hour, pretend like I'm married to some fat guy who just sits in a chair all the time? I think I could fake my way through it."
Grade: A

Disc Three

• "Bingo"
Roseanne becomes strangely fixated with the local church's bingo night.
Roseanne: "Boy, I'll bet this guy does a mean 'I 22.'"
Grade: C+

• "Bowling"
Dan's bowling team is struggling. Roseanne is jealous of Jackie and Nancy's new friendship.
Roseanne: "Who the hell are you?"
David: "Kevin."
Grade: B-

• "The Back Story"
Roseanne throws out her back just in time for DJ's birthday.
Roseanne: "I can't get up and I don't have one of those things. I shouldn't have laughed at that old lady on TV!"
Grade: A-

• "Less is More"
Roseanne's doctor suggests a surprising cure for her back problems.
Becky: "Mom, can you hem my new jeans?"
Roseanne: "Yes, but can I please make you dinner first? Please?!?"
Grade: C+

• "Breaking Up is Hard to Do"
Becky dumps mark and brings home a new boy Dan wants as a son-in-law.
Darlene: "I'm gonna miss [Mark]…even when I was really depressed, I could always laugh at Old Stupid."
Grade: B+

• "This Old House"
Roseanne and Jackie unearth memories in their old house that is about to be torn down.
Jackie: [about why she is alone and Roseanne can't lose weight] "Or maybe I just never found the right guy and you never found the wrong donut."
Grade: B

• "The Commercial Show"
Roseanne gets the family a gig in a commercial shooting at the diner.
Darlene: "This is such a joke. I mean, we go to the mall on Saturday and just sit around pretending we like lousy food?"
Becky: "What is your problem? We've been rehearsing for this all our lives."
Grade: B+

Disc Four

• "Therapy"
Roseanne goes in for a joint therapy session with Jackie.
Roseanne: "One thing I want to say to you in a totally non-manipulative and non-judgmental context…the responsibility that I feel toward you…is all your fault."
Grade: B+

• "Lies"
David wants to date an unsure Darlene. Roseanne has to take a lie-detector test.
Becky: [to David, on the phone] "Darlene's in the shower."
Darlene: "Why'd you have to say shower? Now he's picturing me naked."
Becky: "Well, then I'm sure he won't be bothering you anymore."
Grade: A-

• "Deliverance"
Through a twist of fate, Dan has to coach Crystal through giving birth.
Roseanne: "I'm not mean! I'm crusty."
Grade: B-

• "Secrets"
Dan covers for a drunken Mark and has to keep the secret from Roseanne.
Jackie: "When your mom and I were your age, kids used to ride their bikes all over, build tree forts, and dress up dogs in funny clothes and all kinds of stuff."
Roseanne: "Dress up dogs?…That wasn't us! That was The Little Rascals!"
Jackie: "Oh yeah!"
Grade: A-

• "Don't Make Me Over"
The girls play a selfish trick on Roseanne on Mothers' Day.
DJ: "I hate you!"
Roseanne: "Then my work here is done."
Grade: A-

• "Aliens"
DJ cheers up his over-stressed family by winning the school spelling bee.
Nancy: "I'm so sick of hearing him whine about how I'm smothering him."
Roseanne: "If you can still hear him whinin', then you ain't pushing hard enough on the pillow."
Grade: B+

The Evidence

As evidenced by my grades for these episodes, this is a solid, even season of Roseanne. There aren't any outright cringe-worthy embarrassments like the second season's "Sweet Dreams" and Darlene's evolution makes a few episodes into real gems. She plays a big role in the two stand-out episodes, "Darlene Fades to Black" and "Santa Claus." The first of these starts her transition from a sarcastic, smart-ass kid to a sarcastic, smart-ass teen whose insecurities, angst, and adolescent ennui bubble closer to the surface. Although the episode has plenty of laughs, they don't lead to the kind of light, everything-will-be-alright resolutions that lesser family sitcoms have been feeding us for years. It's an episode—and a season, and a series, for that matter—about parents not knowing how to help their kids, and kids not knowing how to be happy. Always surprisingly responsible and pro-active about continuity, Roseanne follows this storyline through Darlene sitting alone in her room reading Catcher in the Rye during Thanksgiving dinner, through her finding a creative niche in sci-fi fandom, to her finally finding a friend who really understands her. Said friend introduces himself as "Kevin," but, of course, it's our beloved David, the greasy-haired, self-deprecating foil for Darlene who highlights her strength with his own loveably pathetic nature. Is there really enough difference, though, between "Kevin" and "David" as names for the writers to change their minds between episodes?

"Santa Claus" has some of the season's best laughs when Roseanne and Jackie become the big, jolly guy himself and Mrs. Claus at the mall. Guess which one played Santa? As Santa's gal, the always-hilarious Laurie Metcalf makes Jackie into some kind of warden presiding over a festive holiday chain gang. Drawing on her cop persona of the previous season, she struts down the line of children and barks:

"All right, listen up, this is the procedure. You step up to the lap, you state your Christmas wish. You get your candy cane and your photo, and you leave the lap. Any deviation from this procedure will result in loss of candy cane. Remember, [shouting] possession of candy cane is a privilege, not a right! Nobody gets bit on my beat."

Roseanne gets some great lines off as the big guy himself, too. My favorite was a very brief interaction with a pouty little boy. Roseanne simply says, in a saccharine tone, "Well, Santa doesn't believe in you either." The episode also has a really interesting subplot about a new friend of Darlene's, who turns out—to Roseanne's dismay—to be an adult woman with whom Darlene has been sharing all the thoughts and feelings that Roseanne always wants to hear about.

As usual, there are a couple of minor duds, like "Bingo" and "Less is More," both of which get into that too-silly mode that did not serve the show well in the early seasons (balanced out in the later seasons by the too-serious mode, which was even worse). But all of the major characters develop nicely in this season. Becky is on and off with Mark, causing a roller coaster of cheers and jeers from her parents, who have never been fans of the charming lad. Dan and Roseanne, as usual, have money trouble, but this time they're running their own business and have to deal with the bigger risks and rewards of such an endeavor. Jackie has a regrettable one-night stand that propels her into a life on the open road, as a big-rig trucker—just when we thought there was nothing funnier than Jackie being a cop. And DJ is…well, just DJ. He's still that goofy little boy with the cute dimples, for now.

Anchor Bay comes through with two episode commentaries for this set, which fans (at least this fan) have been clamoring for. Roseanne herself does the commentaries for "Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down" and "Thanksgiving 1991," and they really are fun. Shunning the dry tone of boring exposition and diplomatic comments about the cast and crew that mars many DVD commentaries—as we knew she would—Roseanne makes it clear that her tracks will be lively from the deadpan opening comment: "I'm Roseanne and here I am talking endlessly about the show I was in." She does spend plenty of time remembering how much fun it was to work on the show and praising her fellow actors, but she also talks about her frequent conflicts about the writers and especially about their refusals to write a little-known George Clooney back into the show after his first-season stint as Roseanne and Jackie's boss, Booker. He does make one last appearance in "Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down" and Roseanne complains bitterly that they stuck such an obviously gorgeous man in a full-body moose costume for the majority of that episode. Roseanne also makes some funny remarks about herself, as when she says, while Shelley Winters is on screen, "I guess that's me in ten years…if I hadn't had the facelift, maybe five." The commentaries are presented in an unusual style: Whenever Roseanne is speaking (about 70 precent of each episode), the screen angles to include a little square of her talking next to the main episode. I thought this would be distracting or annoying at first, but it didn't bother me and it also allowed for some visual gags, like Roseanne yelling offscreen periodically to the camera crew: "Was that interesting?!?" she asks. "Whatever." There are also a few pop-up video style facts that appear on screen with the commentaries—mostly info about the show, the awards it won, the actors, and their later projects. The commentaries do a lot to overcome the problem previous Roseanne sets have had with lackluster extras. We do still get a few of those here, though, with two repetitive, uninspired interviews with Roseanne and with Michael Fishman (DJ) and Lecy Goranson (Becky) together—but not in the same room together, just cut together from separate interviews. Picture and sound quality are fine and consistent with previous sets, and once again the episodes are uncut (unlike those of the first season).

Closing Statement

A great season of a great sitcom, Roseanne: The Complete Fourth Season is also the first set of the series to have some quality special features. Her loudmouthed antics and the show's surprisingly sophisticated character development make any Roseanne set a solid choice. Well, maybe not any set, but we'll get to that in future reviews…

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 60
Acting: 95
Story: 92
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 583 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• "Life Imitating Art, Imitating Roseanne": New Roseanne Interview
• "A Grown-Up Sit Down Interview with An Adult' Becky and DJ"
• Commentary tracks by Roseanne for "Trick Me Up, Trick Me Down" and "Thanksgiving 1991"

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