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Case Number 10400

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Roseanne: The Complete Fifth Season

Anchor Bay // 1992 // 575 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski (Retired) // November 29th, 2006

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All Rise...

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...

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 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.

The Charge

Roseanne: "Well, people have been sayin' it for years, but now with Dan goin' to jail and all, we are officially poor white trash."

Opening Statement

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:

Disc One

• "Terms of Estrangement, Part 1"
Tragedy comes in twos when Becky elopes with Mark on the same day that Roseanne and Dan have to close their bike shop.
Roseanne: "I knew we shouldn't have gone into business for ourselves; there's nobody to steal from!"
Grade: A

• "Terms of Estrangement, Part 2"
The aftermath of Becky's sudden marriage finds Roseanne coping and Dan avoiding when the prodigal daughter comes back to town.
Roseanne to Mark: "I'm not just some royal pain the butt anymore, I'm your mother-in-law. Now you're family—and you've seen the way I treat my family."
Grade: A

• "The Dark Ages"
When the checks stop coming in, the power goes out as Roseanne tangles with the electric company. In between rounds of shadow-puppet theater, things get serious between Darlene and David—or do they? A funny moment during the credits features Roseanne and John Goodman chasing Laurie Metcalf around, trying to steal her Emmy.
Darlene: "Mom wants me to go on birth control because Becky had sex."
Dan: "I don't think that's gonna work."
Grade: B+

• "Mommy Nearest"
Just as Jackie finds a decent boyfriend, she gets horrible news: her mother is moving to Lanford.
Bev: "So where are my sweet wonderful grandchildren?"
Roseanne: "Oh, they were killed by DJ and Darlene."
Grade: B+

• "Pretty in Black"
Darlene's Sweet Sixteen birthday brings unwelcome parental attention. Roseanne decides to go into the "loose meat" business with Jackie and Nancy.
Jackie: "Sweet Sixteen, you really oughta do something special for her."
Roseanne: "You mean passing her big head through my loins wasn't enough?"
Grade: B

• "Looking for Loans in All the Wrong Places"
Roseanne and Jackie get desperate while searching for business start-up money, desperate enough to call their mother! Meanwhile, tensions mount between Darlene and the new girl next door.
Darlene to DJ: "You're about to become a strange smell in the attic."
Grade: B

Disc Two

• "Halloween IV"
When Roseanne loses the Halloween spirit, she gets the Ebenezer Scrooge treatment from a series of ghosts. The actors and actresses who play young Roseanne, Jackie, and Dan in the flashbacks are incredibly well-cast.
Ghost of Halloween Past: "You must travel back 39 years."
Roseanne: "Well, I hope you have a tram or somethin'…"
Grade: A-

• "Ladies' Choice" (with video commentary)
The ladies in question are Bev and Nancy. One chooses to move into a retirement community, and the other chooses—well, ladies!
Jackie: "Wait a minute! You and I used to go out looking for guys together all the time. We went to all those singles' dances!"
Nancy: "Singles' dances? I thought we were dating."
Grade: A+

• "Stand On Your Man"
Arnie blows back into town to reclaim his now-lesbian ex, Nancy.
Nancy to Arnie: "What we had was not natural."
Grade: B-

• "Good Girls, Bad Girls"
Darlene goes to a rock concert with her neighbor-rival, Molly, while Roseanne entertains Molly's lonely sister, Charlotte.
Guy: "I happen to have a couple of joints right here."
Darlene: "Oh, man. I feel like I'm in the middle of a really bad Afterschool Special."
Grade: B

• "Of Ice and Men"
Jackie has a break-up with a twist while DJ joins a pee-wee hockey league.
DJ [looking for a new sport]: "Hey, here's something cool: tap dancing!"
Dan: "Hockey it is!"
Grade: B+

• "No Place Like Home for the Holidays"
A Christmas Eve blizzard finds the Conners scattered and stuck in different parts of Lanford. Three generations of Conner women spend the night at The Lunch Box, Dan and DJ watch Nancy and Marla kissing under the mistletoe (six times), and Darlene gets new insight on David's home life.
Roseanne: "Isn't it funny how that one special gift always happens to be at the very last car wash you go to?"
Dan: "Well, that explains the window compass."
Grade: A

Disc Three

• "Crime and Punishment, Part 1"
DJ gets caught with an obscene comic at school, and Dan is surprised to find out who the author is. Meanwhile, a serious problem arises in Jackie's relationship with Fisher.
Roseanne: "The longer we don't know what's in Darlene's head, the longer we don't sleep in shifts."
Grade: B+

• "War and Peace, Part 2"
Dan reacts to Jackie's problem with his fists and winds up in the slammer, where a delighted Darlene comes to bail him out. Roseanne surpasses her quota for sisterly advice—or in her case, commands.
Roseanne: "Well, people have been sayin' it for years, but now with Dan goin' to jail and all, we are officially poor white trash."
Grade: A-

• "Lanford Daze" (with video commentary)
A Lunch Box booth at Lanford's winter festival prompts conflict between Roseanne and her vegetarian daughter Darlene.
Darlene: "Doesn't it bother you to make a living by exploiting animals?"
Roseanne: "You just don't get it, do you? We are too low on the food chain to exploit people! All that's left for us is animals!"
Grade: B

• "Wait 'Til Your Father Gets Home"
The death of Roseanne and Jackie's abusive father brings childhood traumas to the surface, and a visit from his mistress complicates things further.
Bev: "You must be Joan."
Her husband's mistress, Joan: "Yes. We finally meet."
Bev: "What a shame we don't have some sort of flavored coffee to celebrate this moment in our lives."
Grade: B+

• "First Cousin, Twice Removed"
A simmering 25-year grudge reaches a boil when Roseanne's rich cousin Ronnie (Joan Collins) comes to town.
Roseanne to Cousin Ronnie: "I can't believe I wasted 25 years hating you for somethin' as stupid as a wedding when there's really a very good reason to hate you: You're a bitch!"
Grade: B-

• "Lose a Job, Winnebago"
Depressed by his failure to get a steady job, Dan lets Roseanne drag him away on an RV road trip to California with the neighbors. Great jokes and one of the season's best serious scenes are slightly diluted by last scene in which the gang appears in the audience of a fictional Tom Arnold TV show.
Dan: "I ain't no good at these damn interviews. I get too nervous. Guy asked me if I had any hobbies, I panicked and said, 'drinking.'"
Grade: A-

• "It's a Boy"
David's home life gets a lot worse and his only options become running away or moving in with the Conners. Tough choice!
Darlene: "Hey, can I talk to you?"
Roseanne: "Sure, I'll try anything once."
Grade: A+

Disc Four

• "It Was Twenty Years Ago Today"
As Roseanne and Dan scramble to get each other anniversary presents worthy of their 20 years together, a new job for Dan threatens to interfere.
Roseanne [trying on sexy costumes]: "A maid's uniform? This is supposed to be fantasy, not reality!"
Grade: B+

• "Playing with Matches"
Caught kissing (or getting kissed by) the neighbor girl, David is in big trouble with Darlene.
David: "Gee, can we still not have sex?"
Grade: B

• "Promises, Promises"
David's unexpected "failure to perform" on prom night stalls his relationship with Darlene. Roseanne encourages a dissatisfied Dan to take on a new business venture.
Darlene: "The only way I'm going to the prom is if I can sit in the rafters with a bucket of pigs' blood."
Grade: B-

• "Glengarry, Glen Rosey"
Getting in on a risky house-flopping scheme may prove to be a little too risky for the Conners.
Dan: "Oh, man, we're screwed!"
Roseanne: "No, Dan. We're so far beyond screwed that the light from screwed will take one billion years to reach the Earth."
Grade: B

• "Tooth or Consequences"
Losing a tooth is the least of Roseanne's problems as she also faces losing another daughter. Darlene gets accepted to an art school in Chicago and might want to leave Lanford—but without David, who was rejected from the school.
Leon: "Have you lost weight? No, you've lost teeth. Pumpkin works for you."
Grade: B

• "Daughters and Other Strangers"
Watching Darlene slump back into a comfortable state of Lanford hopelessness when she can't go to art school is too much for Roseanne.
Roseanne: "So, I guess we approach the end of Bitchfest '93."
Darlene: "Oh, what a time we had."
Grade: A-

The Evidence

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."
Dan: "That's what you said when we found that lost puppy on the highway. I don't want this to wind up like that. I don't want to have to put David to sleep!"
Roseanne: "Dan, I saw what David lives with and I just couldn't leave him there. He deserves to move in with a stable family."
Dan: "Gee, can I come, too!"

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?
2) What was the big deal with the chicken shirt?
3) Did you try to be controversial?
4) Was everyone on the set really close?
5) When the show ended, who got to keep all the props?
6) How did she have time to be a working mom celebrity without going crazy?
7) Did the studio resist Nancy's coming out?
8) Was there a lot of ad-libbing?

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.

Closing Statement

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."

The Verdict

Not guilty. This season is released on bail, just like Dan.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 85
Audio: 85
Extras: 55
Acting: 97
Story: 98
Judgment: 95

Perp Profile

Studio: Anchor Bay
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 575 Minutes
Release Year: 1992
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Comedy
• Television

Distinguishing Marks

• "Roseanne Answers the Top 10 Questions by Her Fans"
• Two Video Commentaries with Roseanne

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