When Judge Jennifer Malkowski's high-school boyfriends pressured her to have sex, she just told them she was gay. As a matter of fact, Sara Gilbert as Darlene probably could have tried this same truthful approach this season...
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 Fourth Season (published July 26th, 2006), Roseanne: The Complete Fifth Season (published October 26th, 2012), Roseanne: The Complete Sixth Season (published January 24th, 2007), Roseanne: The Complete Sixth Season (published October 26th, 2012), 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.
Roseanne: "Well, people have been sayin' it for years, but now with Dan goin' to jail and all, we are officially poor white trash."
Midway through its nine-year run, Roseanne peaked in this fifth season. With the least interesting character, Becky, off having marital bliss in another state, Darlene hitting new heights of sarcastic hilarity every episode, and the best blend of the serious and the funny, this collection of episodes is not to be missed.
Facts of the Case
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, 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—particularly this season, when his dream career folds with the closing of his bike shop. Becky (Lecy Goranson) disappears early in the season with new hubby Mark (Glenn Quinn), but cynical Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and cute-but-scheming DJ (Michael Fishman) are there to pick up the problem-child slack. 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 larger role this season.
Roseanne: The Complete Fifth Season includes all 25 episodes from the season, uncut and distributed over four discs:
• "Terms of Estrangement, Part 1"
• "Terms of Estrangement, Part 2"
• "The Dark Ages"
• "Mommy Nearest"
• "Pretty in Black"
• "Looking for Loans in All the Wrong Places"
• "Halloween IV"
• "Ladies' Choice" (with video commentary)
• "Stand On Your Man"
• "Good Girls, Bad Girls"
• "Of Ice and Men"
• "No Place Like Home for the Holidays"
• "Crime and Punishment, Part 1"
• "War and Peace, Part 2"
• "Lanford Daze" (with video commentary)
• "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home"
• "First Cousin, Twice Removed"
• "Lose a Job, Winnebago"
• "It's a Boy"
• "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today"
• "Playing with Matches"
• "Promises, Promises"
• "Glengarry, Glen Rosey"
• "Tooth or Consequences"
• "Daughters and Other Strangers"
The fifth season kicks off with a bang worthy of a season finale when Becky elopes with Mark, and Dan is forced to close his failing bike shop. These episodes are Roseanne at its best, considering the hopes and dreams of working-class people, and the little and big losses that happen every day to a family that never has enough money. The reasons for Dan's bike shop going under were clearly economic, but even Becky's departure is as much about financial concerns as about true love or teenage rebellion; the Conners don't have any money to send her to college and her boyfriend gets an offer for a well-paying job two states away. In the video commentary to "Lanford Daze," Roseanne affirms that the mission of the series was to show the things that really happened to blue-collar folks, and that the fifth season was perhaps the greatest realization of that goal. Money troubles and the limited opportunities afforded to America's working class continue to permeate the rest of the season, from Dan's angst about settling for crummy jobs for the rest of his life in "Lose a Job, Winnebago," to the painful possibility of Darlene's departure at the season's end. Distraught at the thought of another child leaving her before even turning 18, Roseanne stops to consider the situation more deeply:
"I think I'm screwin' up her life. She's vegetating here, Dan. She hasn't even worked on her comic in two weeks and that used to be so important to her…Two weeks ago she's dreamin' of being a writer, now she's dreamin' of being a cashier at the Buy 'n' Bag…I think we should let her go to that school…We couldn't give Becky a future, right? So Darlene goes out and gets one and now why are we tryin' to take it away from her?…In ten years I don't want her to end up where I'm at…stuck in Lanford, Illinois, and wonderin' about maybe I could have done some stuff."
As hurtful as these thoughts are to Dan, he too can see the painful truth in them. The peculiar but effective brand of cheerfully weary humor the writers and actors use in the midst of these difficult situations keeps the series firmly within its sitcom framework. As we find out in the unfortunate final season of the show, keeping it there was a good choice! The conversation Dan and Roseanne have in "It's a Boy" about the possibility of David moving into the Conner house to escape his verbally abusive mother is a great example:
Roseanne: "Well, I didn't do it for Darlene. She's the last person I
want to make happy. I did it for David; I couldn't leave him there."
This one is a standout in a season of very strong episodes, revealing the astounding generosity and fierce compassion that form the gooey center hiding under Roseanne Conner's hard-candy shell of sarcasm and harsh humor. She takes on a similar Mama Bear persona when Jackie's boyfriend is revealed to be a harmful scumbag in another serious storyline that is not quite as successful as the others this season. This time humor is a weapon, as Roseanne threatens Fisher: "You ever come near her again and you're gonna have to deal with me. And I am way more dangerous than Dan. I've got a loose meat restaurant—I know what to do with the body."
The other truly perfect episode this season is "Ladies' Choice," in which Nancy comes out as a lesbian. Nonstop laughs ensue, with a great performance from Sandra Bernhard and a killer line from Roseanne about lesbians being truck drivers who wear flannel and faded jeans—delivered, of course, to oblivious flannel and faded jeans-wearing former truck driver Jackie, who cluelessly giggles along. "No Place Like Home for the Holidays" is a close third in this excellent season, a sweet and subtle little story about appreciating the family that you have that ends with an unexpected kiss.
No episode in this season earned less than a B-minus from me, and the absence of true duds is welcome and impressive considering the horrors of episodes like the second season's ill-conceived bathroom fantasy, "Sweet Dreams." There is some lackluster fare such as the uninspired guest appearance by Joan Collins in "First Cousin, Twice Removed" and the return of Roseanne's then-husband Tom Arnold as the ever-irritating Arnie.
Far more lackluster than the episodes themselves are the special features. While Roseanne's grouchy resentment about sitting through her commentary tracks and coming up with stuff to say that isn't boring was funny in the first few video commentaries, it has now become actually boring to watch her sitting there looking grumpy and saying little. She is so silent and unanimated, in fact, that the producers try to seamlessly edit big chunks of content out of these episodes to mask her lack of engagement. The video commentary for "Ladies' Choice" runs for less than 13 minutes—a full ten minutes short of the full episode's length. The highlight of these commentaries is Roseanne's casual chronicle of all the "work" she's had done. She tries to remember the order in which she got her hair extensions, nose job, facelift, breast reduction, and eyelid work. The other good thing I can say about these commentaries is that they employ a rather elegant "video commentary" method that frames a small image of Roseanne next to a slightly angled view of the episode.
The only other extra is a brief segment in which Roseanne answers her fans' top ten questions about the show, listed here:
1) What was the obsession with corn in the first season?
The answers are brief, with the best being her response to #6: "Apparently you missed the headlines. I did go crazy." The head-scratching punchline to the whole thing is that Roseanne only selects eight "top ten" questions, thereby demonstrating—like all of the other special features she has appeared in for the show—the amusing orneriness with which she participates in these DVD releases. Video and audio quality in this set is fine and consistent with previous releases of the series.
After watching such a rock-star season of this great series, one can only hope that it won't spiral too quickly toward the atrociousness of the ninth season. As Darlene says, "Hope springs eternal."
Not guilty. This season is released on bail, just like Dan.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
• "Roseanne Answers the Top 10 Questions by Her Fans"
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