Judge Jennifer Malkowski thinks that if Sarah Chalke ever needed a few weeks off from Scrubs, she should have called in some favors from Lecy Goranson.
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 November 29th, 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), and Roseanne: The Complete Ninth Season (published January 9th, 2008) are also available.
"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.
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, 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.
• "Let Them Eat Junk"
• "Roseanne In The Hood"
• "The Last Date"
• "Halloween: The Final Chapter"
• "The Fifties Show" (with video commentary)
• "The Last Thursday in November"
• "Of Mice and Dan"
• "Direct to Video"
• "December Bride"
• "The Thrilla Near the Vanilla Extract"
• "The White Sheep of the Family"
• "Becky Howser, M.D."
• "Construction Junction"
• "We're Going to Disney World, Part 1"
• "Disney World War II, Part 2" (with video
• "Springtime for David" (with video commentary)
• "Morning Becomes Obnoxious"
• "Ballroom Blitz"
• "The Wedding"
• "Heart and Soul"
• "Fights and Stuff"
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."
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?"
Jackie: "I'm gonna borrow your book on child development,
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.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Starz Home Entertainment
• Three Video Commentaries with Roseanne and Michael Fishman
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