When good TV goes bad: how Roseanne’s dream turned into a nightmare
The sitcom’s honest portrayal of a working-class family made it a hit for eight seasons. Then the Connors won the lottery and everything got weird
The implosion of Roseanne hurt. It had been so good, so funny, so groundbreaking when it first appeared in 1988. The show was the product of Roseanne Barr’s standup act as a self-styled “domestic goddess”, which she began in 1980 as a 28-year-old housewife in Colorado and which gained in popularity massively over the next five years, courtesy of flinty lines such as: “They say never hit your kids in anger. Like, when should you hit them? When you’re feeling particularly festive?”
Roseanne the sitcom, with Barr as the eponymous matriarch of the blue-collar Connor family (married to construction worker Dan; three kids), ended its first season as the second most-popular show on TV and became No 1 in the next. It was the first time a working-class family had been portrayed in depth, realistically, with love and without sentimentality or condescension, and viewers took it to their hearts accordingly. It didn’t drop out of the Top 10 for another five years.