The president loves it, liberals (allegedly) hate it, and its producers say the sitcom isn’t about politics at all. So is the new “Roseanne” just a show about everyday people or people who watch Fox News every day? The answer is still a bit murky.
After the reboot of the classic ’90s family sitcom premiered to giant ratings — all told, nearly 25 million people watched — with two episodes that relied heavily on politics to gin up the situational comedy, the show’s identity as a pro-Trump half-hour was cemented. It didn’t help that President Trump himself called up the show’s star, Roseanne Barr, to congratulate her and later took credit for its success, telling an Ohio crowd that the show was “about us.”
But is it?
Tuesday’s show, “Roseanne Gets the Chair,” wasn’t about the 2016 presidential election at all, seemingly making good on a promise that producer and co-star Sara Gilbert made in an interview last week. Appearing on Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live,” Gilbert, who reprises her role as the moody middle child Darlene, said the reboot was “not about anybody’s position or policy. It’s really about what happens to a family when there’s a political divide.” Roseanne seemed to have a different take when she tweeted Friday about the upcoming installment: “the next episode shows Harris (my tv granddaughter) calling me a stupid old hillbilly-watch how I handle her and her very liberal mother!”
The divide in Episode 3 was generational, which, of course, often is also political. Dan and Roseanne — especially Roseanne — think Darlene is too lenient with her teenage daughter, an entitled teenager from Chicago who hates living in Hicksville, U.S.A.
“Your generation made everything so PC,” Roseanne says to Darlene, using a term for “politically correct” that Trump supporters have consistently pilloried. “Instead of spanking them, you tell them to go over there and think about what they did wrong. You know what they’re thinking? I can’t believe this loser isn’t spanking me.”
The Conners also find the time to take a jab at their own network’s diverse programming slate. When the couple, both struggling with age, zonk out in front of the TV, Dan jokes, “We missed all the shows about black and Asian families.” Roseanne then quips, “They’re just like us. There, now you’re all caught up.”
Later in the episode (which drew approximately 15.1 million viewers), Roseanne and Darlene’s daughter, Harris (yes, last names as first names are very on trend), battle it out. The problem according to Grandma Rose? The teenager from the big city thinks she’s “better than” the Conners. That seems like another dog whistle, a wink and a nod to the self-loving “deplorables.”
Never once was Trump’s name mentioned in the episode, and neither was Hillary Clinton’s. Aunt Jackie (Laurie Metcalf) has put away her pussyhat and “Nasty Woman” T-shirt, but in place of those is her consistent liberal-splaining at the Conner kitchen table.
As the series, which has already been renewed for a second season, marches on, “ripped-from-the-headlines” issues such as the opioid crisis, the rising cost of health care and culture clashes are all scheduled for screen time. Dealing with the same family flash points as most of the country makes the Conners “just like us,” too, right? Yet somehow watching (or not watching) the show has become a political act in itself. Much like its IRL counterpart, “Roseanne” can’t escape being branded a political show no matter how much it might try.