A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Roseanne is a sitcom that has strong language, fiery arguments, and examples of a blue-collar lifestyle that were rarely seen on TV until it debuted in 1988 (and then was rebooted in 2018). Roseanne is a strong woman who is the strength behind the family, but not everyone will view her parenting style and sarcastic, belittling comments as a positive thing. Over the years the family faces a variety of challenges, which aren't necessarily handled with grace, but offer life lessons. Episodes deal with a range of issues, including domestic violence, drug use, underage drinking, teen sex, divorce, gender questioning, and the economic struggle of the middle class. There's lots of beer drinking, and some cigarette and cigar smoking. References to brands like Jell-O, Milky Way, Cool Whip, and Mallomars are common, but the logos aren't really visible.
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What's the story?
ROSEANNE, which aired from 1988 to 1997 (and rebooted in 2018), features the Conners, a blue-collar family living in the fictional town of Lanford, Illinois. Dan (John Goodman) works hard to provide for the family, but it's Roseanne (Roseanne Barr), the strong, bossy, and wise-cracking family matriarch, who manages to keep everything running as smoothly as possible, despite having to balance taking care of Becky (played by both Lecy Goranson and Sarah Chalke), Darlene (Sara Gilbert), and DJ (Michael Fishman) with working minimum-wage jobs at factories, beauty parlors, and fast-food restaurants to help make ends meet. Roseanne's younger sister, Jackie (Laurie Metcalf), practically lives with them, and sometimes needs as much guidance as the kids. It isn't easy to keep up with the family's changing needs on a tight budget, and there are times when they don't know how they will make it to the next paycheck. But the Conner family finds a way to keep going, and does so with their own brand of humor.
Is it any good?
The groundbreaking series was the first to offer TV audiences a hyper-realistic look at the family life of working-class Americans. It highlights some of the real concerns Middle America faces, including rising costs, stagnant wages, and the lack of employment opportunities. It also features a strong female lead character who's unapologetic about her body, her domineering personality, and her frank (and sometimes crass) zingers. These character traits created some controversy during the show's first few seasons, but it's impossible to ignore the fact that Roseanne is always motivated by her love for her family.
Classic Roseanne episodes tackle many mature issues, ranging from underage drinking, drug use, and teen sex to domestic violence, child abuse, and falling below the poverty line. The 2018 reboot addresses more contemporary topics, including transgender youth and opioid addiction. It also features the older, wiser, and a little less energetic Dan and Roseanne enjoying their grandchildren while trying to figure out how to afford the rising cost of their prescriptions. But no matter which version of the series you choose to watch, you'll find a fun comedy about the day-to-day antics of a loving, imperfect family trying to do its best.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the family is similar to or different from their own. Do the members of your family talk to each other like the Conners do? Has your family faced any of the issues that the series highlights? How have you handled them?
Roseanne has dealt with different issues, and the cast has faced different challenges over the years. What were some of the problems they dealt with? Are the issues they discussed 20 or more years ago still relevant today? What's changed?
Why was Roseanne Conner a controversial character when the series first aired? Is she less controversial now? Why?
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