It was on Oct. 18, 1988, 25 years ago, that "Roseanne" debuted, introducing viewers to the most relatable working-class family since the Kramdens and the Nortons tried to eke out a city living in "The Honeymooners."
"Roseanne," which was a hit for ABC right out of the gate, was also a boon for comedians — Roseanne started a streak of standups being offered their own network sitcoms — and for female-centric series. Much would be made of her offscreen behavior — the marriages and divorces, the warring with writers and producers (and the cast of another hit sitcom; see below), and that notorious national anthem performance — but Roseanne fought for smart, honest, groundbreaking storylines on her show, and for at least six seasons, that's what viewers got.
Gems like "PMS, I Love You," "Nightmare on Oak Street," "Inherit the Wind," "April Fool's Day," "Trick or Treat," and "Home-Ec" found Roseanne and the rest of the Conner clan hilariously dissecting everything from PMS, puberty, and flatulence to filing taxes, Halloween, and the budgetary wizardry necessary to run a family on a very small income. Both Roseanne and co-star Laurie Metcalf won Emmys for their performances, while male lead John Goodman, as Roseanne's husband, Dan, certainly should have racked up at least a few wins during the seven times he was nominated.
Despite its hit status, fine performances, and often-stellar writing, "Roseanne" never received an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy nod. But its place among TV's all-time great comedies is sealed, and we celebrate the show with this list of 25 things you didn't know about "Roseanne":
1. Oscar and Emmy winner Shelley Winters played Roseanne Conner's grandmother — Nana Mary — in 10 episodes of the series, and Roseanne said that having Winters on set was like getting a crash course in Hollywood history every time. "If she had only a line in the show, she would end up acting out an entire scene from an old classic she had been in, or else she would start telling sex stories of Hollywood, or else she would tell us secrets about Marilyn Monroe and the Kennedys, as she had been Marilyn's roommate for a number of years," Roseanne wrote in her 2011 book, "Roseannearchy: Dispatches From the Nut Farm." "She did everything like that for hours. The only thing she didn't do is ever once say her line right. I loved that part. It was hilarious to me, and I enjoyed her so much."
2. Series co-creator Matt Williams — who famously feuded with Roseanne, prompting her to insist that he was the show's "developer," not creator — says the star and Goodman, who played Conner family patriarch Dan, slid into their roles in the audition. "We brought him in the room; he looked at Roseanne and said, 'Scoot over.' She said, 'Shut up,' he plopped down, and it was like they had been married for 16 years," Williams told Entertainment Weekly in 2008.
3. Glenn Quinn, who played Becky's husband, Mark, was most famous for his role on "Roseanne," but he also starred in "Angel" and was Gwyneth Paltrow's first onscreen kiss, in the 1991 movie "Shout" (which also starred Jon Travolta and Heather Graham). Quinn, who turned a one-episode stint into a seven-season role, died of a heroin overdose in 2002 at age 32.
4. One of George Clooney's most famous pre-"ER" roles was as Booker, Roseanne's boss at Wellman Plastics. He "was the most fun person on earth to get drunk with," Roseanne wrote in "Roseannearchy," and "his practical jokes are still legendary." Several cast members insist there exists a Polaroid (taken by Roseanne) of Clooney holding a pair of Groucho glasses over his, ahem, Little George. The photo lived on the Conner family's refrigerator on set for years.
5. Like "Seinfeld," "Family Guy," and many other TV comedies, "Roseanne" inspired an adult-film spoof, called "Roseanne XXX: The Parody." "As if the original with me parading my svelte two-hundred-and-thirty-pound love goddess bod hither and yon wasn't sexy enough," Roseanne quipped in "Roseannearchy."
6. Among those who were on the "Roseanne" writing staff or penned episodes of the series: "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." creator Joss Whedon; "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino; "The Big Bang Theory" and "Two and a Half Men" creator Chuck Lorre; actor Steve Paymer; "Saturday Night Live" alum Norm Macdonald; and Roseanne's first two husbands, Bill Pentland and Tom Arnold. Lorre, in fact, drew Roseanne's ire earlier this month on Twitter, when she accused him of stealing one of her menopause jokes and using it on "Two and a Half Men."
7. Working on "Roseanne" was not a happy experience for many of the writers, as the star was often at war with the writers and producers for control of the show. In 2008, several of them told Entertainment Weekly that she made them wear T-shirts with numbers on them and would refer to them by the numbers instead of by name. Said Roseanne, "I wanted to strip them of their huge, colossal self-entitlement. 'Hey, you're just a cog in the wheel here! It's not about you.' I think they learned something from it." Responded Whedon, "The thing about Roseanne was that she had strength, intelligence — and that enormously divisive side.... She had opportunities to bring people together, where she would divide them instead.... It was a brutal environment."
8. Roseanne was introduced to ex-husband/"Roseanne" writer and producer Tom Arnold by Lizz Winstead, co-creator of "The Daily Show," when the three were performing at a Minnesota comedy club.
9. Roseanne the character gave birth to her youngest son, Jerry, in the show's Season 8 Halloween episode in October 1995. Real-life Roseanne had given birth to her youngest child, son Buck, in August 1995 after undergoing tubal-ligation reversal and an in vitro process that originally had her expecting quadruplets. Buck's father is the star's third husband, Ben Thomas, her former bodyguard and a "Roseanne" guest star (he played a cop in two episodes). Roseanne's first husband, Bill Pentland, made a guest appearance in the Season 1 episode "Saturday"; thus, all three of her spouses appeared on the series.
10. Michael Fishman wasn't the original D.J. Sal Barone played the Conner son in the pilot but was replaced when he and co-star Sara Gilbert couldn't get along. Hollywood writers also went on strike after the pilot was shot, and when it was time to resume production, Barone had grown so much that producers were afraid he would soon grow taller than the actresses playing his two older sisters.
See Barone as D.J. in the "Roseanne" pilot:
11. Macaulay Culkin, pre-"Home Alone," was also considered for the role of David Jacob Conner.
12. "Big Bang Theory" star Johnny Galecki was cast as Darlene's boyfriend David Healy after co-starring with Roseanne and Tom Arnold in the 1991 TV movie "Backfield in Motion." Actually, he was cast as Kevin Healy; he was introduced as Mark's brother, Kevin, in the Season 4 episode "Bowling." In his next episode, a month later, he had been renamed David, which became a joke later in the series when Roseanne commented on Darlene's pushiness by saying she was so controlling that she even renamed her boyfriend.
13. Matt Roth guest-starred during Season 5 as Jackie's younger boyfriend, Fisher, who was eventually beaten up by Dan after the Conners found out that Fisher abused Jackie. During his time on the show, Roth and Jackie portrayer Laurie Metcalf fell in love, and they were married in 1993. The couple, who also co-starred in a 2006 "Desperate Housewives" episode in which Metcalf's character held Roth's character hostage in a supermarket, filed for divorce in 2011.
14. Among other "Roseanne" guest stars: pre-fame Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Tobey Maguire. DiCaprio played Darlene's home-ec classmate (in "Home-Ec"); Gordon-Levitt played D.J.'s awkward friend George in four episodes; and Maguire played a friend of Barry, the boy Darlene liked, though he liked Becky (in "Valentine's Day").
Watch DiCaprio on "Roseanne" at the 7:08 mark:
See JGL on "Roseanne":
Maguire on "Roseanne":
15. The house used for the exterior shots of the Conner family home in (fictional) Lanford, Illinois, is actually located in Evansville, Indiana, and earlier this year, it was up for sale ... for $129,000.
16. Actress Lecy Goranson, aka "Becky One," left the show at the end of Season 4 to attend college at Vassar full time, returned for Season 8, and left again at the end of the season. Sarah Chalke took over the role when Goranson was away. In a recent interview with HuffPost Live, Goranson said that she not only had never seen any of the Season 9 episodes but also hadn't been aware that in the series finale, her TV dad, Dan Conner, was revealed to have died.
17. In one of "Roseanne's" most clever end-credit videos (one of the show's trademarks), the Lecy Goranson/Sarah Chalke switcheroo was spoofed in "Nearly Identical Beckys," a clever nod to the "Patty Duke Show" opening.
18. At the height of "Roseanne's" success, when Arnold was starring in his own ABC sitcom, "The Jackie Thomas Show," he and Roseanne got into a nasty tiff with the "Seinfeld" gang ... over a parking space. "Jackie Thomas" filmed at CBS Studio Center, where "Seinfeld" was also filmed. One day in March 1993, "Seinfeld" star Julia Louis-Dreyfus unwittingly parked in a spot assigned to Arnold, who left a note on her car: "How stupid are you? Move your f---ing car, you a--hole!" He says the actress, accompanied by co-star Jason Alexander and series co-creator Larry David, confronted him about the note, leading Roseanne to leave her own obscenity-laced note, with a bar of soap, on Louis-Dreyfus's windshield. The incident eventually blew over, with the "Seinfeld" gang reluctant to talk about it, and Arnold and Roseanne happily retelling the story many times, saying that the "Seinfeld"-ians "think they're doing Samuel Beckett instead of a sitcom."
19. In a preview of his "fat guy in a little coat" scene from the film "Tommy Boy," "Saturday Night Live" star Chris Farley made an uncredited guest appearance in the Season 5 episode "Glengarry, Glen Rosey." Farley met up with Roseanne in a thrift store and got her approval on a (very small) leather jacket he tried on.
See Farley's guest spot on "Roseanne" at the 7:18 mark:
20. Producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner are one-time ABC programming executives who had a hit with "The Cosby Show" on NBC after ABC passed on it. The duo then pitched "Roseanne" to NBC, which rejected it before it ended up on ABC. (And yes, it happened again: Carsey and Werner tried to sell ABC on "3rd Rock From the Sun," only to have that network reject it and NBC pick it up and air it for six seasons.)
21. The ninth season of "Roseanne" revolved around the Conner family winning $108 million in the lottery and found Goodman MIA in 12 of 24 episodes because of his busy film career. Critics and fans hated the storylines — which Roseanne had reportedly intended to be a "Roseanne"-ized version of "Absolutely Fabulous," right down to guest appearances by "Ab Fab" stars Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley. In an attempt to call a TV mulligan, the series finale, "Into That Good Night," rewrote the relationships and Conner family fate, with Roseanne, in voice-over, revealing that Dan had actually died at the end of Season 8 when he suffered a heart attack at Darlene's wedding. But it was too little, too late, and the finale is universally regarded as one of the worst series enders ever.
22. In a 2009 post on her blog, RoseanneWorld.com, Roseanne shared what happened to the "Roseanne" gang after the series finale. In a post titled "Reunion Show," she wrote, "D.J. gets published, Mark dies in Iraq, David leaves Darlene for a woman half his age, Darlene meets a woman and they have a test tube baby, Becky works at Walmart, Roseanne and Jackie open the first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford, Illinois, and pay off the mortgage before the house is foreclosed on, Arnie becomes the best friend of the Governor of Illinois, Mom sells a painting for ten grand, Nancy and Arnie remarry, Jerry and the grandsons form a band like the Jonas Brothers, Dan shows up alive after faking his death, Leon has a sex change op, [and] Bonnie gets busted for selling crack." The only problem with that update: In the series finale, it was revealed that David was actually Becky's husband, not Darlene's. Still, fans would certainly be on board with Dan being alive.
23. "Roseanne" finished its first season as the No. 2 show in primetime (behind "The Cosby Show"). The series was among the top-20-rated shows every season, except for that infamous ninth season, when it wasn't even among the top 30.
24. "Roseanne" led to a Saturday-morning cartoon spinoff, "Little Rosey," for one season in fall 1990. The 'toon aired for 13 episodes and revolved around 8-year-old Roseanne, who was not voiced by Roseanne. The series was supposed to include a line of toys and a Burger King tie-in, but after her July 1990 national anthem performance, Roseanne wrote in "Roseannearchy" that she was "called to New York by Dennis Somebody, as head of the ABC Saturday morning children's programming, that as a Marine he was personally offended at my rendition of the anthem and was canceling my cartoon, and was replacing it with the 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.'" And during the last month of the final season of "Roseanne," Carsey and Werner pitched a live-action spin-off series that would have revolved around widow Roseanne Conner, but the spin-off was ultimately considered too expensive to produce.
25. What was the deal with that chicken T-shirt, which was worn by most of the cast members at some point in the series? Roseanne herself explained it in a bonus feature on the Season 5 DVD boxed set. "The chicken shirt, it was just the ugliest shirt I ever saw, and we had this bet between us, the actors," she said. "If you show something really bad on TV, it takes off. It was like another rebellious artistic statement, that it looks like art when it's on TV." And she may have been onto something; not only is the chicken shirt one of the "Roseanne" topics she's asked about most often, but Cafe Press sells a knockoff of the tee.
"Roseanne" airs on WE tv and TV Land. Check local listings for times.
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- Roseanne Conner