Tuesday, 24 April 2012
It seems like every season of Roseanne since the second has followed the same pattern: start up with a few confident, well-made episodes, fall off around episode five or six with ridiculous stunt episodes/wacky hijinks, then return in the winter with the best episodes the show's done yet, only to fall apart again by season's end. Now, I'm only halfway through season 4, but so far it's fallen into this pattern too. I was gearing up for an entire season of great television, but instead I was treated to another irritating Halloween episode (which I'm sure is a heretical sentiment for a Roseanne fan) and the strained family farce of "Thanksgiving 1991." Maybe I'm being too hard on the show, but when a season starts as strongly as this one did, it's just disappointing to see it fall into old habits again so quickly. It might just be that the things I love most about this show are different from the ones the producers love. And clearly they're crazy about Roseanne heckling Wayne Newton.
Friday, 20 April 2012
It's looking more and more like Roseanne won't return to its season 2 model, of alternating comedic episodes with dramatic ones. But as much as I loved the darker moments in that season, I'm becoming more and more convinced that it's not the best model for the show. Season 2 put in a lot of work deepening the characters, and now that it's done, the show can focus on episodes like this one, which weave together comedy and drama so expertly it looks effortless. Honestly, I don't know why I'm consistently so skeptical of Roseanne. It's addressed every problem I've identified in it, and as a result it's steadily gotten better and better since it started. It made its characters worth caring about in season 2, and perfected its voice in season 3. And now, in season 4, it looks like it has no desire to slow down. I'm very excited about this season.
Sunday, 15 April 2012
A quick one: watching "Her Boyfriend's Back" made me realize that even though Roseanne is only defining its guest characters in fits and starts, its main characters are so well-drawn that their reactions to one-dimensional side characters can make an entire episode on their own. Then again, even Becky's anachronistically rebellious boyfriend Mark got a few more personality traits in this episode. But just a few.
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
Sunday, 8 April 2012
Though season 3 of Roseanne is turning out to be better on the whole than season 2, it's taken until its fifteenth episode to really hit the high notes it did the year before. "Becky Doesn't Live Here Anymore" is the first episode this season that's really wowed me to the same level of classics like "No Talking" and "An Officer and a Gentleman." I guess it's no secret now that my favourite sitcom episodes are often their most dramatic ones, but what's so striking about Roseanne's dramatic episodes is just how funny they are. It's almost like there are two versions of the show with different senses of humour battling it out all the time. In one, the show is light and flippant, choosing silliness over any kind of deep insight. In the other, the show explores the deepest, darkest recesses of its characters and finds the humour in them. And in these episodes, the comedy is so on point, feeling true and earned—and most importantly, hilarious—that it's some of the best I've ever seen, which makes the "normal" episodes much more disappointing in comparison. Whenever Tom Arnold appears onscreen, or the show feels the need to lightly bend the fourth wall or indulge in some cartoonish aside, it's like I'm watching a different series entirely. I understand that the show wouldn't be able to sustain 25 devastating kitchen sink dramas a season, but I wish it weren't filling out the numbers with hokey material like "PMS, I Love You" and "Trick or Treat."
To be fair, this season's standard episodes are turning out much better than their equivalents in season 2, but I still feel like the show should be making episodes like "Becky Doesn't Live Here Anymore" more often. The cast is certainly game, with wonderful performances from (again) Sara Gilbert and Lecy Goranson matching the always-perfect ones from John Goodman and Laurie Metcalf. Roseanne herself has turned into a fantastic central hub for all these people, and is no longer just a sassy punchline machine. The writing is able to more often than not achieve a delicate balance between low-key sitcom storytelling and outlandish irreverence. But somehow, except for the occasional "Becky Doesn't Live Here Anymore," the show tends to feel like less than the sum of its parts. Maybe it's an unreasonable expectation, but I want this show to be as wonderful as it could be. And even though it's better than it's ever been at this point, since it hasn't yet figured out how to do it by season 3, I'm starting to think it'll never reach my lofty expectations.