Series Finale: Roseanne (1997)

As you can tell by my series of Roseanne Comics Cavalcade posts (just hit the Roseanne category link), I’ve been watching a lot of Roseanne reruns and it’s quickly turned into one of my favorite shows and not just because of all the comic and pop culture references (DJ and his girlfriend have been trying to see the re-release of Return Of The Jedi for at least two episodes in the last season). It really is a really well-written and acted series that is both hilarious and full of heart (a balance I love and think makes for the very best sitcoms). Over the last few weeks, I’ve found that watching the reruns on TV Land and (shutter) Oxygen are some of my favorite moments of my unemployed day.

I recently noticed that TV Land wasn’t just showing reruns, but more interestingly, the infamous last season. See for those of you who don’t know, in the last season of Roseanne, the Conners won the lottery and a lot of other crazy things started happening. Darlene had a baby, Roseanne and Jackie’s mom turned out to be a lesbian, Hollywood wanted to make a movie about the Conners. But the weirdest thing about the whole season is that it all turns out to be fake. See, in the season finale, it turns out that Roseanne has been down in the writing room creating all of these events to help her get over Dan’s death. That’s right, the season finale of the previous season had Dan in the hospital after a heart attack. The beginning of the last season had him recover and be fine, but all of that never happened.

I used to watch Roseanne with my family, but we had stopped for whatever reason, which means I never actually saw this last season before (and maybe not the season before). Having seen a good deal of them in rerun form, I did like these episodes, though, knowing the huge season end-spoiler puts things into context. It’s like watching The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense the second time around. You already know the gag, so certain thinks make a little bit more sense (like Dan’s mom trying so hard to kill him and no one really doing anything about it). One thing I have noticed about the series as it progressed is that Jackie has basically turned into a borderline mental patient by the last two seasons. I still think Laurie Metcalf is hilarious as te character, but she’s just SO over the top most of the time. I missed a lot of the season, so I can’t talk about the whole thing, but what I saw I liked.

So, moving into the two part season finale (called “Into That Good Night”), we have Darlene and David moving back into the house with their brand new baby and everyone coming by for a big party. There’s actually a really nice moment where DJ’s in the basement (he got moved down there so Darlene and David could have his room, which is actually Darlene and Becky’s old room) and tells Roseanne that he can teach her how to use his computer so that she can use that room for what it was intended as when it was first introduced: her writing room. The first episode ends with a nice prayer by Roseanne that got to me a little.

The second episode brings the non-family members to the party in the form of Leon and Scott (played by Fred Willard!) and Nancy (Sandra Bernhard). There’s a lot of people talking to the baby and we get the reveal that Becky is actually pregnant too! Even though I know this isn’t “real” it’s still a nice reveal I guess. Oh, I do want to note that Darlene’s character is much more interesting to me this season. In her later season appearances I was getting a little tired of the snide comments and her almost never taking things seriously. But, in these last two episodes, she gives little smile here and there after making her jokes, which I think make her a lot more relateable.

I loved the moment right before Roseanne’s big reveal where they do the 360 degree shot while arguing over Chinese food which mimics the original opening credits. Some interesting reveals: Leon’s not as cool, her mom’s not a lesbian, Jackie is a lesbian, Darlen’s actually with Mark and Becky’s with David, and, of course, Dan is dead. The moment where the fantasy Roseanne transitions into the real Roseanne really did get me as Dan’s voice floats ghost-like through the scene. Here’s the thing I didn’t realize going into this season finale, if I’m understanding this correctly, but the entire series seems to have been written by Roseanne based on events in her real life. This is definitely getting a little meta for me to parse through, but the character Roseanne (the “real” Roseanne) says that she wrote the story of her life the way she wanted to. I’m not sure if this pisses me off or doesn’t actually. I guess this means that the “fictional” versions of the characters really are the ones we watched the entire time, even up until the “real” Roseanne breaks the illusion at the end of the series. So, in essence the Becky we’ve always know really was pregnant, because, in “reality” she got with David an not Mark. This kind of retconning can be annoying, but at least it doesn’t mean every single episode we’ve seen has been pointless. Just because it’s not based on the “real” Roseanne’s actual life doesn’t mean it’s not “real” to us. It’s just like “real” Roseanne is one of the writers of the show we watched all those years who is breaking through and telling us where she got her ideas. Wow, this is way more complicated than I expected it to be, but I’m guessing that, back before TV made a huge splash on VHS and DVD wasn’t even in the picture yet, writers weren’t too concerned with how things might play out as a whole in later seasons (or maybe they did because of reruns). It’s crazy. Anyway, here’s the very end if you want to watch it again or for the first time:

5 thoughts on “Series Finale: Roseanne (1997)

  1. I watched Roseanne with my mom all the way to the end, and we too were a little weirded out by the last season wackiness as well as the reveal that it was all fake. It kinda felt like that one season of Dallas where Bobby dies and everything goes crazy and they pissed off the fans, so they brought Bobby back and made everything all a dream. But I read in an interview or something that no one on the cast or crew knew about that end scene with Roseanne. She wrote it, and I guess had a couple people film it, but otherwise it was kept super secret. There’s something about the secrecy of that reveal that makes it seem like it wasn’t a crazy plot twist, or a means to rectify the ridiculous stuff, but that it was Roseanne’s plan all along, and it would just work better if no one knew. I still don’t like a lot of those wacky last episodes, but plots like that do happen in other sitcoms in total seriousness (especially older ones), so it’s almost like when Roseanne was doing that, it was like a parody or homage in some cases.

    But whatevs. it’s still an awesome show. And I still want more Roseanne people to show up on Big Bang Theory.

    1. I know exactly what you’re saying, that’s how I felt while watching the last few seasons of That 70s Show, another favorite of mine. They even did the whole “bring a cousin in to liven things up” gag, but I kind of figured they were doing it tongue in cheek because they needed another cast member after losing Eric and Kelso.

      That’s really interesting about that last part being written by Roseanne. I’ve heard that if the series had gone on she said DJ would have been killed in Iraq or something, but didn’t really elaborate.

      I also can’t wait to see more Roseanne people on BBT. Em thinks they might reveal that Howard’s mom is Roseanne, which would be rad. I’d just like to see Roseanne, John Goodman or Laurie Metcalf in something on a regular basis.

  2. I really enjoyed your very excellent comments–and–I noticed too that, for a while there, TV-Land was showing only the last two seasons (which irked me a lot because the early ones have a character all their own) and finally they have broken that holding pattern–as has Fox with the Simpson reruns in their affiliates where it seemed that they ran the latest seasons, placing Marge and Homer’s youth in the nineties and missing out on a lot of material.
    I really experience the early episodes of Roseanne as a separate entity than the episodes from Tom Arnold onward. Roseanne changed after that situation of marriage to him, his leaving the show, the divorce, etc. But Roseanne just started turning into a real shrew. Not just an attitude laden person but a real sadist with very little in the way of redeeming qualities. That final episode really made me angry. I felt like in the basement she murdered the entire series–why she would one could only guess. But, that being said, the early seasons DO NOT HAVE TO BE DISCARDED as a story in themselves just because of the last episode in the basement. There would be no way that the episode in the basement was in the creator’s minds the whole time. We know that Roseanne, like most sitcoms, blossomed, and developed…and maybe got a little too ripe for enjoyment toward the end. I have to credit “Frasier” as the only sitcom that has stayed the course…and its last episode created an illusion of seamlessness of the entire series that could not have been forseen. No, I don’t like the late Roseanne; But I do love the Roseanne Connor that took abuse from a manager in a plant and walked out when she could take no more, and continued on her way, and tried to find work, etc. She, the early Roseanne, is like us. The late Roseanne is nothing like us. To be honest, it is John Goodman’s consistancy in portraying “Dan” that kept me watching the series all the way through. But it is all different for everyone—and that means it reaches a lot of people, and I do respect Roseanne tremendously for her groundbreaking and as yet unsurpassed work of television screen art.

    1. I definitely see where you’re coming from with the earlier episodes being best. I pretty much shut out the last season and forget about the ending. I took a while off from watching Roseanne reruns because I saw pretty much the entire series in a short period of time, but I’ve caught a few recently and it really doesn’t ever get old. Dan gets my vote for best TV dad.

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