The comedy that celebrated working class life (on the upside), and introduced the world to Tom Arnold (on the downside), calls it quits tonight after nine truculent and turbulent seasons. The special, hour-long finale airs at 8 p.m. on ABC.
The shouting and sniping, however, may well go on in another format. Today, Roseanne announced that she'll host a five-day-a-week afternoon talk show in the fall for syndicator King World, the folks who bring you Oprah Winfrey.
"I'm not going to try to be like everyone else," Roseanne said at a news conference today. "But I'm not sure exactly what it is I'm going to do."
Roseanne's 220th, and last, episode finds Roseanne and her TV family reuniting as Darlene (Sara Gilbert) and David (Johnny Galecki) bring their baby girl home from the hospital. A surprise end of some sort is in the works--TV critics were given preview tapes that deleted the final, closing minutes.
So, how will Roseanne take out Roseanne? You try to outguess a woman who once spit and scratched her way through an ear- splitting rendition of the National Anthem.
Roseanne debuted in October 1988. Tooled to fit the "domestic goddess" stand-up routine of then-Roseanne Barr, the show, about the Connor family of Lanford, Illnois, didn't look or sound like the usual TV family sitcom. Roseanne Connor and TV hubby Dan (John Goodman) were, well, fat. Their three kids were sullen and sometimes surly. Their living room was decorated in Early TV Tray. They were unabashedly lunch-bucket Joes.
At its best, unflinching, at its worst, shrill, Roseanne was an immediate hit. The number-two-rated show out of the box in 1988-89, the number-one show in America in 1989-90.
The show was no less in-your-face than its star. In the age before Ellen, Roseanne was introducing Mr. and Mrs. America to everyday, recurring gay characters, played by Sandra Bernhard and Martin Mull. And, in 1994, it featured the infamous "gay kiss" episode--Roseanne and guest star Mariel Hemingway briefly lip locked in a scene set in a gay bar.
The series faltered of late. The aging show was defenseless in its time slot this year against NBC's Mad About You (with its own special hour-long episode tonight--Jamie [Helen Hunt] goes into labor) and even CBS newcomer, Promised Land. In a flailing plot twist, the Connors won $108 million in the lottery; Dan left home (and came back and left and came back); Roseanne's mother (played by Estelle Parsons) came out, fantasy episodes ("Roseambo," anyone?) came and went.
Though it was understood that Season Nine would be the last for Roseanne, producers as late as this spring negotiated with ABC to bring back the Connor character in a new series, in a new setting (like Las Vegas). The network didn't bite. So primetime's loss is the afternoon's gain.