“Roseanne” unraveled in its final episodes.
The ABC sitcom received much praise for its honest portrayal of a blue-collar family in the eight years leading up to its 1996-97 season. It dominated ratings for a majority of those years and, despite slipping after Season 6, still managed to attract 16 million viewers for its series finale. That is 16 million people, then, who witnessed the writers’ attempt to undo the mess they had created throughout the preceding 22 episodes. (Spoilers ahead, but come on — two decades have passed.)
We were told that patriarch Dan (John Goodman) survived a heart attack at the end of the eighth season and that the Conners won $108 million in the Illinois State Lottery, both of which somehow contributed to a humorous show about a working-class family transforming into one filled with outlandish plots. The final season involves Roseanne (Roseanne Barr) partying with the wild “Absolutely Fabulous” duo, fighting train-hijacking terrorists and even parodying “Evita” in a fantasy sequence.
Also a fantasy? Those 22 episodes, apparently. The finale reveals via voice-over that Dan died and Roseanne coped by working on her fanciful memoir: “When you’re a blue-collar woman and your husband dies, it takes away your whole sense of security. So I began writing about having all the money in the world and I imagined myself going to spas and swanky New York parties just like the people on TV, where nobody has any real problems and everything’s solved within 30 minutes.”
Thanks to syndication, this big reveal might be easy for viewers to recall. That puts the “Roseanne” revival, which premiered Tuesday night, in a difficult position. The Conners still aren’t millionaires, but now Dan is alive. It’s as if the writers want us to forget the episode — heck, the whole season — ever happened.
This oddity isn’t limited to “Roseanne.” Four other TV reboots, ranging from “Gilmore Girls” to “American Idol,” also disregarded the events of their original finales. Remember how Rory Gilmore was such an incredible journalist that she covered the Obama campaign straight out of college? The revival certainly didn’t.
“Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life” (revived by Netflix in 2016)
If your reaction to the series finale of “Gilmore Girls” was meh, you weren’t alone. Creator Amy Sherman-Palladino exited before the last season, and the Netflix revival gave her the opportunity to write a new ending for the show that went off the rails without her direction.
In the seventh season, Lorelai (Lauren Graham) gets married to her baby daddy, Christopher (David Sutcliffe), but they eventually break up, and she gets back together with Luke (Scott Patterson). Rory (Alexis Bledel), finally over her yacht-stealing phase, gets rejected by the New York Times and ends up covering the Obama campaign instead.
The revival, which picks up a decade later, purposefully forgets those happy endings. Rory should have built a stellar portfolio after the campaign but somehow ends up in another crisis mode with only a handful of solid bylines. She presumably ended things with the insufferable Logan (Matt Czuchry) when she turned down his marriage proposal but still hooks up with him in the reboot. And even though we were gifted a Lorelai-Luke reunion after slogging through a season of Christopher, we once again find the duo dealing with problems that would have made more sense years ago.
“Fuller House” (revived by Netflix in 2016)
“Full House” ended in 1995 with a strange episode called “Michelle Rides Again,” which centers on the Tanner family’s attempts to jog an amnesia-ridden Michelle’s (Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen) memory after she falls off a horse. But a smaller element remains inconsistent — and more upsetting — between this finale and the “Fuller House” revival, which aired more than 20 years later.
After D.J. (Candace Cameron-Bure) spent the entire season trying to decide between two mediocre boyfriends, she eventually chooses neither and opts out of attending her senior prom. Michelle, even without her memory, finds this ridiculous and enlists D.J.’s best friend Kimmy (Andrea Barber) and Aunt Becky (Lori Loughlin) to find her sister a date. Surprise! It’s Steve (Scott Weinger), whom we know and love but haven’t seen for many, many episodes.
“Fuller House” picks up after D.J.’s firefighter husband — who is not Steve — dies, and she is left to raise their three children on her own. This was presumably to make room for Steve to be a future love interest while still allowing for a parallel to Pam Tanner’s death in the original series, but it is still sad to imagine that D.J. spent all those years with some other guy.
“Will & Grace” (revived by NBC in 2017)
In the original finale, which aired in 2006, Will (Eric McCormack) and Grace (Debra Messing) drift apart and raise children separately with their respective partners, Vince (Bobby Cannavale) and Leo (Harry Connick Jr.). The episode includes a huge time-jump, in which the two reunite 20 years later as they move their now-grown kids into dorm rooms across the hall from each other. The idea of Will and Grace spending that time apart felt weird, and the revival quickly tossed it out by using the oldest trick in the book.
In the opening scene, Karen (Megan Mullally) wakes up from dreaming that “Will was living with a swarthy man in uniform and Grace was married to a Jew doctor.” That part was once true, Will tells her, but both couples have since split up. The part about having kids who grew up and got married, though? Absolutely not.
“Oh, what a relief,” Karen says. “Nobody wants to see you two raise kids.”
“American Idol” (revived by ABC in 2018)
Fox announced in the spring of 2015 that the following year’s season of “American Idol” would be its last. That meant we would go on to endure months of “Farewell Season” commercials, arguably sappier than those goodbye montages that aired after each contestant was eliminated. Past judges, winners and finalists came back for the emotional finale in May 2016, and host Ryan Seacrest got choked up while saying one last time, “We say to you from Hollywood: Goodnight, America.” It was a Big Deal.
Less than two years later, the show is back on ABC. It picked up earlier this month, and Seacrest is back — perhaps now dealing with other issues — with three new judges: Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie. So should we just forget about all that “America picks its final Idol” drama?