Last week I watched the first two episodes of the reboot “Roseanne” show on ABC, as did apparently 18 million people. I very much enjoyed the original series and expected the new version to be similarly worthwhile television. While I do not predict many Emmy wins, the show was good, fun to watch, and all I can say is welcome back. However, rather than an analysis of the show’s qualities by the entertainment writers, the commentary is emanating from political pundits wrongfully trying to equate the show with political statements and endorsements. I have watched many commentators simply embarrass themselves displaying complete ignorance of popular culture and the history of the show. Neither the show nor its audience is a referendum on President Trump or the 2016 election. Not even close. It is entertainment.
In support of their ridiculous notion about the show, pundits claim Roseanne was a Trump supporter and thus is representing the Trump base with her show. Supposedly the real Roseanne switched from Clinton to Trump during the campaign, not unlike other voters. Personally, I do not care for whom celebrities vote. If their writing and acting are good, I will watch their show. If the show isn’t good, it will not last. Political satire is part of our American culture. Just make it clever and funny and do not encourage the vitriol plaguing the nation…
The first episode of Roseanne this year was neither a political endorsement nor indictment of President Trump, but rather a recognition of the reality in many families of a lingering political split over the 2016 election. Roseanne supported Trump and her sister Jackie supported Clinton (then later Stein). The show began with the premise they were still in a fight over their respective votes. The pundits pointed to the family dinner wherein Roseanne said grace and included thanks for “making America great again.” Saying grace is certainly no issue either way. The writers used it as the mechanism by which Roseanne could get in one final zing on Jackie with that phrase. That was plainly evident to anyone who actually watched the show rather than discussed an isolated clip. The show then had one short segment where the women listed a few reasons for their respective votes while they made up. The show did not include dialogue about the campaign or President Trump’s performance in office. So just where was this ringing political endorsement of Trump and Trump voters?
Norman Lear’s “All in the Family,” one of the best television shows of all times, did the same thing decades earlier. Archie Bunker represented the concerns and prejudices of many, but the brilliant writing used situations and dialogue to cleverly and subtly disprove the bias while recognizing its source. The show certainly was not promoting Archie’s views, although they were always careful to remind people that Archie was a good family man ultimately just concerned about supporting his family. All in the Family used well-written dialogue of political conversations whereas Roseanne relies on comedic situations and sarcasm. Nevertheless, both shows focused first and foremost on providing quality entertainment and then on using humor to dissect some of the challenges facing the society of their day.
Good comedy almost always involves at least some aspect of social and political commentary of the day. The original Roseanne did just that. There were episodes that thoughtfully addressed economic issues, unemployment, racial tension, prejudice, sexual harassment, domestic violence, rape, gay rights, alcoholism, and all kinds of issues and challenges facing working class families across the country. It was clear that the point of the plot lines was to promote equality, tolerance and understanding, not the prejudices portrayed by some characters. The new Roseanne aims to do much the same thing. Son DJ is in a mixed-race marriage with a child. Daughter Darlene’s son Mark is experiencing gender identity issues. Thus, Roseanne is again pushing issues at the forefront of our society and preaching tolerance. It is safe to say the show will visit politics at various times of the season. I can only hope the writing and dialogue make us all cringe as we take an introspective look at modern American politics.
A note to the pundits. Try watching these shows and understanding American pop-culture so you do not humiliate yourselves. The discussion of Roseanne served nothing more than to demonstrate the point that many pundits are elites who are out of touch with average American people. It was just a good, entertaining show.