In the late 1980s, working class families who weren’t the ideal of pretty or showing how life resolves everything became the fixation of viewers in the series Roseanne.
Created by Matt Williams and Roseanne Barr, the series showed the life of the Connor family, living in southern Illinois and surviving day to day as a blue collar family.
Both parents worked outside the home, and the three kids dealt with the reality of their life in their working class community.
Barr had been a stand-up comedian, and developed the unique character of Roseanne, without the usual focus of a sitcom. She and her husband Dan, played by John Goodman, are both large, overweight people, not typically beautiful or likeable.
But the unique combination of them and their kids, Darlene, Becky and DJ, Roseanne’s sister Jackie and friends of the family, made their lives tv gold. As the lives change, boyfriends appear and disappear and everyone gets older, it was the revelation of that they mirrored real life that made this show so popular.
This half hour sitcom series struck a chord with American viewers, pushing it into the number one spot in its first year in 1988 on ABC TV.
Barr played Roseanne as a loud, opinionated woman, who didn’t suffer fools and was fiercely protective of her family and friends. This wasn’t a comedy that avoided tough subjects – it dealt with poverty, drug abuse, alcoholism, domestic violence, abortion, social class system, birth control, homosexuality and a whole host of things related to parenting and teenagers.
Many critics noted that the female dominated household was one that ignored beauty and showed intelligence and quick wit as the key to being in charge and ambitious. The series showed the ups and downs of relationships as well as the careers of Roseanne and Dan, as they try to make a living for themselves and their kids.
In 1989-1990, Roseanne was the most watched sitcom in the US with an average of 16 million viewers for each episode. Roseanne Barr became an A list celeb – one who wasn’t typical. Barr and Laurie Metcalfe, who played her sister Jackie on the series, both won Emmys and Barr and Goodman both won Golden Globes for their character portrayals.
The series continued into the next decade, reflecting the changes of the family with births, marriages and more secondary characters. But it was the unique combination of a real life family struggles that led many of us to watch this half hour sitcom, curious to see how Roseanne reacts to the day to day challenges of life.